Using Theatrical Tales as Documentation of Personal Testimonies

Overview

Tactical Aim: 
Country or Region: 
Organization: 
Tahrir Monologues
Partner Organizations: 
حكاوي التحرير

Stories are one of the most effective means in documenting an event a group of people or a society has witnessed. This tactic is a model of using dramatization, the art of storytelling and theatre, as a way of documenting personal testimonies and registering them as one of the written and painted historical sources away from the hands of the government and their historians, and to remind the people of the demands that they protested for.

Summary of the group’s foundation: following the January Revolution of 2011, Tahrir Monologues was born. The idea of the project started during the strike in Tahrir square demanding Hosny Mubarak to step down from office. A group of youth agreed upon sharing their personal stories of what they lived through during the protest to the public, to let the public know of the hardship they lived through in the eighteen days of the strike until Mubarak resigned. That is how the project began to show personal tales and experiences of ordinary people who were trying to record what had happened to them while the press and the media ignored their stories.

It was based on a previous experience in the “Bussy” project which focused on showing stories and experiences of women in Egyptian society, with some improvements to give the feeling of a monologue while being presented by the storyteller. A group of youth decided to take the same path to tell their stories during the Tahrir square strike, to transform their stories into a theatrical play as a reminder of what happened in Tahrir square and to give an insight of how life was during the strike to those who were not able to participate in the revolution, as well as documenting history in a different form.

The project asked people who participated in the revolution through their Tahrir Monologues Facebook page, and on twitter and their website to send their personal stories of what happened to them during the eighteen days, from the first spark of the revolution to the resignation of Mubarak, to show those stories in live theater in “The Tahrir Monologues” show. The project received thousands of stories from people who were attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets, the camel incident, the violations committed by the military and the Central Security Forces, the Suez and Alexandria incidents, and in other governates as well, the local committees, midnight thugs, and sexual harassment. The stories were collected and selected to cover all points of view and situations to draw a holistic vision of what happened during those eighteen days. The monologue is presented by the people who lived the story or actors who reenacted the stories. The project was shown around Egypt to be a complete source of the revolution. The Tahrir Monologues project continued collecting and showing the personal stories for two years.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

 

What we can learn from this tactic: 
Collective memory tends to be born out of trial proceedings and textbooks, often dictated by the governments account of what happened, and what they want their citizens to know and remember. This limited and often one-sided view of history can lead to ignorance and repetition of past mistakes. The Tahrir Monologues project documented events as they occurred, or shortly thereafter, as a way to preserve historical memory. The project used a creative approach to documenting an event in a holistic and comprehensive way that was free from state control. They used personal stories in the form of theatrical performances to recount what happened during the January 2011 Revolution in Egypt. The project utilized social media platforms and a website to gather stories and connect people who experienced the revolution. This effectively created a community of storytellers. By doing so, they were able to reveal thousands of narratives and perspectives of a single event. This gave a voice to those who may have gone unheard. 
 
This form of documentation has the power to uncover details and facts that would have otherwise gone unnoticed or had been left out from formal or government approved narratives. The ability to tell stories and document history in such a personal way can be a form of healing for the storytellers. It allows them to share their experiences, hear what happened to others, and bond over shared experiences. This can facilitate a deeper remembering of processes and events.
Caution should be paid when using the stories of others. Care should always be taken in order to protect the storytellers, and organizations should always be aware of re-traumatization. The protection of the victims should always take precedent to the collection of the story. Further measures should also be in place to ensure the anonymity of the victim in contexts where sharing their story could be dangerous if their identity is revealed.