The Aesthetics of the Theatre of the Oppressedi

Daily, we are immersed in sounds, images and words that bombard us with concepts and impose their truths on us. Insistence on the same aspects and permanent repetition of strategic points can crystallise ideas and bring pure abstraction to life. SOUND, IMAGE and WORD can be powerful instruments to define what is beautiful, just and desirable. In his last book, The Aesthetics of the Oppressedii, Augusto Boal affirms that the system of oppression sustains and propagates its dominant ideology by using those three communication channels to invade and dominate our brains.

Words printed in the newspaper acquire the appearance of reality despite being only one version of reality. The images of tall, white, slim, bodies, blue-eyed and blond, exhibited along public roads, in magazines, and on internet and TV all over the world define a universal model of beauty, fashion and elegance. The sounds and rhythms often broadcast on the radio, on TV and in internet videos, define music and its success.

We must promote the re-appropriation of these communication channels. This is why SOUND, IMAGE and WORD are the three basic trajectories at the root of Aesthetics of the Oppressed to promote conscious liberation from the traps set by aesthetics of the oppressor. This aesthetic process requires that subjects seek to understand observed reality from their own perspective while keeping in mind the context surrounding it; and capture and express this perception in artistic creation: drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, dance, poetry, music, image, text, performance, etc. The representations they produce reveal and reflect not only the discovery of creative potentials but also experimentation with reflexive processes. It is about a radical move towards positioning oneself in relation to reality.

The Aesthetics of the Oppressed is a set of activities. It aims at dismantling the oppressive system’s strategy of influencing and convincing oppressed women and men that they are incapable of creating, producing, deciding, so they should be content to consume. The Aesthetics of the Oppressed is an exercise of freedom that stimulates the creative and critical production of culture and knowledge.

i SANTOS, Bárbara. Theatre of the Oppressed ROOTS & WINGS a theory of praxis. Los Angeles – USA, KURINGA in conjunction with UCLA Art & Global Health Center and UCLA Prison Education Program, 2019

ii Boal, Augusto. A Estética do Oprimido. Rio de Janeiro, Garamond, 2009. Fundamental reading to deepen understanding of this topic.