In an effort to tackle the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination in Malawi, Washington, D.C.–based theater artist Annalisa Dias will be traveling to the outskirts of the central district of Salima to direct a week-long theater workshop that will include plays, a series of games, and exploratory exercises "to reflect on the societal and cultural forces at work within each of them and within the community in Salima," according to a statement provided to the Nyasa Times.
The effort, called the Salima Project, will ultimately produce a documentary film focusing on how theater can be a tool to fight HIV stigma. Joining Dias will be Malawian storyteller Masankho Banda, theater artist Verepi Madise, U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Genna Helfrich, Malawian health specialist Mphatso Diyele, and Los Angeles-based film producer Kelly Bumford. The team is expected to arrive in Malawi in mid-July
The Salima Project focuses on promoting health education through storytelling and theater, a technique that has been used around the world because it has proven to be helpful in building relationships in various types of communities. The project will allow Malawians an opportunity to create and tell their own stories.
“The Salima Project is rooted firmly in the philosophy and teaching of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed,” reads the statement to the Nyasa Times in part. It continues, “The team hopes that this type of work at the intersection of cultural development and health advocacy can be a model for future projects that empower local communities to tell their own stories and share them with the world.”
Screenings of the documentary about the process are scheduled for the end of this year in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., with a possibility of other screenings in the Salima district and Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.