SOAS University of London

Theatre production supported by SOAS research project makes National Theatre in Ethopia

23 August 2022
tiranya production

'Tiranya Ko Koisani' – a  tale of love and war written and performed by Mursi agro-pastoralists from Ethiopia's remote South Omo region – played to a packed audience in Addis Ababa on 31 July. This was the culmination of a collaboration that began in 2019 when cattle-herder and filmmaker Olisarali Olibui realised the power of performance as a medium for teaching others about Mursi culture and advocating for the rights of his community.

With support from Professor Emma Crewe and Dr Richard Axelby of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, Olisarali and the South Omo Theatre Company applied techniques of community theatre to develop a script and a vision for staging this play at the National Theatre in Addis Ababa. Having selected non-professional actors (none of whom had previous knowledge of theatre) the cast underwent several months of intensive training at Wolkitte University.

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The result – a multi-media production combining songs, dancing and donga stick fighting – premiered on 24 July at Wolkitte University where it was received with extraordinary enthusiasm by the audience. The performance at the National Theatre of Addis Ababa the following week was watched in amazement and received widespread coverage on national TV. Olisarali was invited to talk about the process and the challenges Mursi people are facing, including in this extended interview with Fana television. A film documenting the production is being completed by filmmaker Ben Young for release in 2023.

The project was funded by grants from the Global Research Network on Parliament and People's (GRNPP) Deepening Democracy programme and the AHRC's follow-on funding for Impact and Engagement. To find out more about the South Omo Theatre project, SOAS's involvement, and our plans for future collaborations, on the GRNPP website.

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