Peace and Trauma, Part II

by Erik Ehn



Peace and dramaturgy
Theater and performance
Theater’s contract with community
Institutional approaches



Peace: The chant is “no justice, no peace,” and art for social change, social justice, for peace—the terms tend to slide. The overlay is in the Solomonic framing, where justice isn’t a judgment but the creation of circumstances where nature can reveal itself. Gaçaça (the recent system of truth telling and assessment used in Rwanda) is imprecise according to certain standards in deciding cases; I’d argue that it is a remarkable option for turning cases into socially held stories—that man’s wife wore my dead mother’s bloody dress. Say it—say the word—this makes space for wonder, for memory (which is dynamic). Word—Parabla—parable—parabola—to get next to something. This nearness, without landing on and crushing the thing it describes, is art’s gentle precision. The theater of this has more to do with justice than a prison, where crime is a kind of capital: you are defined by your sentence rather than your question; questioning stops. Neither hell nor heaven for that matter are meant to be prisons—they are stagings of your own nature. They take your place. You are what you let save you. Trauma is addressed through gaçaça by a restored ability to see—the killer is in front of me, not in my head. Performance in a space of social turmoil may not result in plans of action—it is the action—what we do we do by knowing, by sharing knowledge, and by testing knowledge against wisdom—do our actions promote or fight against clear sight and tolerance.

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