Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Masterclass and Keynote

Aug 26

Masterclass at Kendu Hearth. Photo by @darlkomu on Twitter.

1) I get up at 7AM (which is midnight, Toronto time) to prep my class. I walk over to the space, and teach about 14 people. The class is a mix of international and Ugandan theatre artists. It goes very well. I have been reading a thick and apparently revolutionary tome on brain science called The Master and his Emmissary, by Iain McGilchrist (a brilliant Scottish neurologist, psychiatrist and teacher of English at Oxford). The science proposed by McGilchrist and my own practice seem to dovetail nicely, so I've been folding his theories on the brain into my teaching of theatre-making.

In essence, he proposes that the Western brain has become - through a kind of cultural selection - slanted towards left-hemisphere function, and that the right hemisphere has been inhibited. In practice, this means that we in the West tend towards language-centric communication, self-aggrandizement, denial of fact-based evidence if we don't like what the evidence states, a lack of spirituality, and a lack of appreciation for paradox, dynamic relationships and contradiction. In this context, the Arts can be seen as a corrective effort towards a rebalanced brain, since the Arts contribute to right brain engagement, and therefore healthier overall brain function. And a healthier brain means a better world.

Of course, it's more complicated than this, but for a three hour class, it works well!

Binyavanga Wainaina. Photo by Lannan Foundation.

2) The keynote address by writer, thinker and bad boy Binyavanga Wainaina. I have worked closely with Binyavanga in the past (on his play Shine Your Eye, part of Volcano's Another Africa), but this is the first time I've heard him address an African audience in Africa.

His speech is staggeringly brilliant. It is a call-to-arms, a reprimand, a challenge to all the artists in a packed room (I videoed it, and will put it online once I'm back in Canada). He speaks of some very large thing that has awoken in Africa, and has begun to move, whether anyone likes it or not. The consequences will be both good and bad, but the movement will be profound.

Binyavanga's presence also ensures press coverage for the conference: all the major papers in East Africa show up to listen. It is a thrilling night, and a thrilling beginning to this conference.

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