Indra Congress
Update Feb 2021
March 24, 2021 By admin

Dear coordinators and colleagues

I hope you are all keeping as well and safe as possible during these difficult times – a greeting we have all received and given many times over the past year!  I am writing to give you an update on Indra related events.  Despite the pandemic there has actually been a substantial amount of activity within and between some of the Indra groups.  These projects illustrate Indra’s potential to build links and collaborations which reach out across borders and barriers around the world.  Let me share some of these developments.

  1. South to North and SAUKINDIA 

Following the initial conversations in pairs and small groups we began last year, ARROWSA in Durban, with South Roots in Cape Town began a dialogue with Rochdale Touchstones Centre and Gorse Hill Studios (Greater Manchester) in the UK.  Out of this emerged an exciting project, ‘South to North: Art for social Change’. In discussion the issue of domestic violence emerged as an important issue.  However, in order to build up a momentum of shared energy and confidence it was decided in the first stage to focus on the crucial topic of climate change and then move on to address the deeply sensitive theme of domestic violence.

Mary Lange of ARROWSA was successful in getting a grant from National Arts Council SA to develop the project.   There thus began a series of digital workshops, storytelling, improvised dialogues and quizzes.  The study Hall Foundation In Lucknow, India (SHEF) heard about the project and expressed interest in joining in.  This collaboration became a separate project, SAUKINDIA, with an initial focus on culture, gender and power.

The South to North and SAUKINDIA projects overlapped in 2021, which has resulted in the sharing of an impressive series of workshops and activities.  Working on the theme of a scarecrow to bridge climate change issues and warding off social issues, the participants explored the heritage of scarecrows and then created their own scarecrows from recycled materials, presenting them to each other in different art forms – poetry, dance and visual art. The literal theme of a scarecrow then developed into consideration of the scarecrow as a metaphor. Each country explored this in their own way with South Roots focusing on the scarecrow as representing their cultural identity and Study Hall focused on the scarecrow as embodying the saying ‘do not read a book by its cover’. ARROWSA Bechet youth focused on how their scarecrow represented social pressures such as the wearing of brands.

All the participants then considered the scarecrow as a representation of themselves and what they would like to put into that ‘scarecrow’ to empower it to ward off social ills such as gender based violence. This project is ongoing until the end of April and will tap into the collaboration with UK artist Maggi Squire culminating in physical and virtual exhibitions of the textile people created, “They stand their ground against gender based violence”. The arts for social change sessions have also been accompanied by skills transference workshops led by volunteers who are leaders in their field, for example a workshop was led by CCMS, UKZN Luyanda Makoba-Hadebe on breaking down and understanding the true nature of gender based violence.  Ayanda Ngcobo from Ethekwini Local History Museums, a partner of ARROWSA, led a workshop on gender issues in South African museums as did Natalie Crompton from Touchstones on a similar topic in UK museums. Shanette Martin led a workshop on the technicalities of using zoom effectively and Felipe Poza of Study Hall led as workshop on how to use improvisation online.

Maggi Squire shared her talent with an intriguing figure making session. The aim of Maggi Squire’s intriguing workshop was to create a figure using soft materials such as pillows and douvets, which are then structured and bound tightly into largre figures which are further wrapped with curtains, sheets – anything.  The idea is to create the feel of being inside lockdown, literally tucked into it.  On to this can be layered natural items, twigs, leaves showing the whole figure as symbolically part of the natural world.  The figure can then be hugged to illustrate self-reliance during lockdown. Here is a photo of Maggi’s original figure:

She who holds her ground’ by Maggi Squire

  1. Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT) and Indra.

Jacky Hardacre is currently executive director of SYT.  In 2003, when I initiated the original ARROW programme, Jacky was Director of Burnley Youth Theatre and, together with Lisa Allen, created an exciting partnership with ARROW.  As Executive Director of SYT Jacky was recently writing a bid to the British Council for their Climate Change COP26 fund.  In order to strengthen the bid SYT formed an international  partnership with a group of Indra colleagues, who were already working on this theme.  The bid was successful and was awarded £50,000.  Here is an extract from the bid:

‘Groups of young people from three continents will engage with climate change issues that impact them at a local level, coming together to consider the wider global climate challenge. By collaborating with researchers, conservationists, activists and educators, the young artists’ creative work will be grounded in understanding the science and in scrutiny of the social, economic and political drivers at play. Each campaign will identify its purpose and target audience to shape the form and content of the creative work.


Using the simple holding framework of PHONE CALL TO THE WORLD, young people from Scotland, South Africa, Palestine, England, and India will create digital performance work that will inform, question, confront and make demands of its different audiences. They will create short works that pack a punch in their messaging and are easily consumed via social media and other digital platforms, permeating the daily existence of thousands of people. Longer works will also be created, particularly for podcasts, film and live performance where possible.

Collaborating with experienced artists, and made all the richer by the Collaboration sessions, all groups will shape their campaign around their own context, focused on issues specific to them and where they live.


  • Scotland: two groups made up of young people from different areas of Scotland that are resonant with focus topics -oil and gas versus renewables (Shetland/East coast/Fife); forestry and rewilding (Dumfries & Galloway/Highlands)
  • South Africa: young people from Durban and Cape Flats exploring climate change contextualised within historical issues related to contested land; advocating for indigenous peoples as guardians of the land
  • Palestine: empowering young artists and influencers to create work focused on improving broader understanding of the need to protect sustainable resources
  • England: engaging underrepresented groups and young people facing multiple barriers to participation in two communities, to explore their relationship to climate change, bring their voices to the fore and inspire local action
  • India: a broad educational project to inspire a future generation to care for our planet, contrasting urban and rural experiences and promoting better environmental practice.’

SYT has also engaged Indra participants in the RESURGENCE project, which is ‘a Scottish and international creative inquiry into the public concern of inequality, to support the recovery and renewal of youth arts provision as it emerges from the confines of 2020’.

 Nigeria/Northern Ireland Cultural Exchange workshops involving recent BA Drama graduates from Ulster University and Arojah Youth Theatre participants, Nigerian university lecturers and students, and theatre professionals from Nigeria and Brazil.

Over the past year Matt Jennings of Ulster University and Jerry Adesewo of the Aroja Royal Theatre in Abuja have delivered a series of exciting online collaborative drama workshops via Zoom, on post-conflict and COVID crisis themes.  Matt writes:

‘We have been following the wishes and interests of the participants in scheduling and deciding what kinds of event to hold and what topics to discuss. It started with an exchange of dramatic writing and poetry about our experiences of armed conflict and the COVID pandemic. We then held events on the topic of mental health and wellbeing for young artists and students; writing and performing original plays and poems (including a visit from the winner of the Nigerian Young Playwright of the Year award); the struggle of young people and artists in relation to oppressive regimes and military violence (in response to the protests against the SARS paramilitary security force); and an event on digital theatre-making for children and young people under lockdown’.

The ‘digital theatre-making’ event included a brilliant session on Sat 21 Nov, when theatre makers (particularly makers of TYA) from Brazil and Norway shared some of their beautiful work, including Viviane Juguero (‘AKIN’), Thiago Monte (‘Table Hamlet’) and Marcelo Peroni (‘Scaratuja’). Their discussion was facilitated by Cleiton Echeveste (director) of ASSITEJ Brazil. All the work had been done in their homes during lockdown, with no funding, but they achieved a fantastic level of production and audience engagement, for young and old.’

This latter development again illustrates the potential of Indra to forge new, expanding connections and links and to build up an extensive network from which young people and artists around the world could increasingly benefit.

  1. I-CAF (International Community Arts Festival)

On Friday the 28th Feb Tim Prentki lead a seminar on the theme of neuroscience, empathy and community arts.  The I-CAF event normally takes place in Rotterdam every 3 years.  To maintain momentum this year there was a digital event. Tim’s seminar focussed on the links between new understandings from neuroscience about how the brain works, the role of empathy and, by extension, the impact on Community Theatre practice.

I attended the first session.  I thought the discussion entered very interesting ground when it focussed on neuroplasticity, the capacity of the brain to literally change and how this capacity can be developed for the treatment, for example, of trauma and the significance of play to mediate this process.  (For those of you interested in this topic I would strongly recommend a book by Dr Bessel van der Kolk called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. Interestingly the penultimate chapter is titled ‘Finding your Voice: Communal Rhythms and Theatre.’)


March 2021