Thursday, February 15, 2007

Popular Education, Puppetry and….

Meeting with a friend and some young students interested in popular education I was asked about the relationship between popular education and Bread & Puppet which my friend knows me to have been involved with for over 25 years. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the history of popular education in Canada and the world and I am currently working on a manuscript provisionally titled Trickster Pedagogy that puts some of my ideas out there as well as scrutinizes my experience with popular education these couple of decades past. When asked about Bread & Puppet in the context of popular education it crystallized for me some thoughts about the uniqueness of Canadian popular education history, practice and theory or, in a word, praxis. As with all things human, there are contradictions (some widely-recognized and some not so) in the history and praxis of popular education in Canada – something I am exploring even as we speak. That said, I am also confident in saying that there are some wonderful contributions that deserve attention including The Naming the Moment Project (inspired by the practice of conjunctural analysis in Latin America), The Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action (a group of over 20 educators who worked together in Toronto between 1986 and 1997), The Centre de Formation Populaire in Montreal, The Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia and Kairos (an ecumenical social justice umbrella group), and the Catalyst Centre of which I am a co-founder. There are countless events that have been part of this history including popular theatre workshops, social justice conferences, the Popular Education weeks that happened on Grindstone Island in 1987 and 1988. And Canadian popular education has integrated anti-racist theory and practice as well as made some serious headway in influencing trade union pedagogy. And, to return to the inspiration for this post, it has always incorporated a healthy dose of the arts – whether this is the use of mural production and other forms of visual art, the training and use of Theatre of the Oppressed (including forum theatre), song, ‘zines and puppets. As part of the Naming the Moment workshops of 1991-1992 in Toronto, we both produced a performance of Bread and Puppet as well as our own production of the Ojibway Prophecy of the Seven Fires (performed at the Native Canadian Centre in October of 1992 as part of the reframing of the much-vaunted Columbus quincentenary). I plan to write a more detailed history of that event which was a remarkable moment of coalition and collaboration. More recently, with respect to popular education and the arts, Deborah Barndt edited a collection of essays about community art that is well-worth checking out: Wild Fire: Art as Activism. And, apropos of my friend’s question about popular education and Bread & Puppet I continue to research this wonderful link and will share more of this in future. Meanwhile you could always check out these local (Toronto) groups for which I hold enormous respect:

1 comment:

RS said...

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