As a young girl, I have always believed that the twenty-first century will bring wisdom and harmony to the world. That humanity would have learnt its lesson from the devastating wars of the twentieth century. In my own lifetime, I have experienced what it means to live in crises and war, in the wars in Yugoslavia in the nineties. Somehow the hope was that we would, as a civilization, become wiser and nobler in this new era.
IDEA President Sanja Krsmanović Tasić at the IDEAC Conference in Zhuhai, China, in May 2023
What we are encountering in the last few years is an escalation of violence, tragedy, horrific atrocities, migration, all happening as a consequence of wars in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, and so many places in the world. The war industry seems to be the only industry that is blossoming. And what is even more devastating is that profit seems to be behind many of the things that are happening, not even power, colonization, conquering, but just money and profit.
On the other hand nature seems to be rebelling. The earthquakes, floods, tornados, global warming and catastrophes. Nature has been fed up with the way humans are mistreating it for so many decades.
Sometimes we feel helpless in this situation. Sometimes we remain speechless, paralyzed, afraid.
I have no recipe of what to do in the global geopolitical sphere. What I can offer is the example of what was happening in my country, and my city, Belgrade, in those years of hardship. In the Center for Culture "Stari Grad“ a group of artists collected under the initiative of Ljubica Beljanski Ristić, one of the founders of CEDEUM, to offer a safe haven for many children and youngsters. They did drama and dance workshops and even worked during the NATO bombing of Belgrade and Serbia. This small island of hope helped these young people safely transcend this period filled with stress and distress. Many of them became established artists and important creators of the cultural and artistic life of Belgrade.
What we must never forget is that we have a powerful tool in our hands, a skill that can transform us into everything and anything we want, and this is theatre and drama. To act is to be active, to do, to move, to speak out, to try out different scenarios for the future. In the process of creating in the theatre/drama education world, we learn steps of becoming better versions of ourselves, we try to, in this process also change the world around us.
We as drama teachers and pedagogues, are the beacon of light and hope in dark times. We must never give in to hopelessness, helplessness and despair. What we do, and how we deal with things is an example for the children, young people, seniors, whom we work with.
In our spaces, classrooms, drama studios, we must be able to create these small oases of meaningful existence, of the vision of a better future, of solidarity and support for each other. This is why I called a series of workshops I did: ART NEST. What we create is a warm nest of understanding, but also of challenging and strengthening the young people to take flight by themselves. To learn to fly, despite the dark clouds, thunder and hard rain that fall on us sometimes.
We in the IDEA board look into the future with optimism, sure that next year’s IDEACongress in Beijing, China, will bring us all together, and allow us to have a first hand glimpse of the important steps that are happening, with the implementation of drama education in the school curriculum in this great country. This will be an opportunity to meet Chinese drama educators, to also meet each other from the international community , and present and share our work and expertise. As this will be a blended Congress, many can also join us though different online platforms that will be provided for the Congress.
I believe we can change the world by doing what we do best, and that we can learn so much from each other. Exchange is important, and we can inspire each other, and bring new tendencies in drama/theatre education to our own countries and spaces where we work. Our Congresses have always been the best place for all of this. So hopefully we will meet in Beijing next July.
IDEA celebrated IDEA Day in the form of an online Webinar dedicated to the theme of Drama/Theatre Education for Peace. Let us all see and hear how we can contribute with our work to the important and essential field of peace education through drama and theatre.
I will end with a quote from an exceptional man, who showed that change can be done in a non-violent way, Mahatma Gandhi:
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world.“
Sanja Krsmanović Tasić, IDEA President