Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm with Jana Sanskriti

June 2016


tea, theatre
sound, rhythm
image, movement
tea, team
food, fruits
flavours, care
tea, theory
concepts, perceptions
discussion, exchange
tea, tears
memory, history
emotion, imagination

Our investigation of Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm began with a theatrical laboratory in Berlin in 2010. Based on this experience we created a structure for workshops as well as a way of creation of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) productions in general, and Forum Theatre productions in particular. We tested and developed this structure in workshops in KURINGA Berlin (20011/12) as well as during Theatre of the Oppressed meetings and festivals such as the Pula Forum Festival in Croatia (2012/13) and the Second Latin American Theatre of the Oppressed Meeting in Guatemala (2012).

In 2013, we decided to share the Sound/Rhythm-process with the Centre of the Theatre of the Oppressed (CTO) in Rio de Janeiro, out of recognition and gratitude. CTO was our source of inspiration stimulating us to follow the research of Aesthetics of the Oppressed that Augusto Boal and his team had begun in 2001 in Brazil. After the workshop and street presentation in Rio, more workshops and presentations followed: at the Colombian Theatre of the Oppressed Festival (2013) and the Latin American Theatre of the Oppressed Meetings in Bolivia and Nicaragua (2014/16). 

In 2015, Jana Sanskriti visited us in KURINGA, space for Theatre of the Oppressed in Berlin. The group presented their play “Shonar Meye” and watched Forum Theatre presentations from the KURINGA community groups Madalena-Berlin and KIKMA.[2] At this occasion, we spoke about how to share the experience of Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm with Jana Sanskriti in Badu – a plan we were finally able to realize in June 2016. 

Common grounds 

Our connection with Jana Sanskriti, international reference for everybody who practices Theatre of the Oppressed, had been existing for a long time. Bárbara first met the group during the international Theatre of the Oppressed  Festival in Rio de Janeiro in 1993 and then re-connected during the Muktadhara festivals in 2006 (with Augusto Boal) and 2010, when she conducted the first Madalena Laboratory in India.[3] Till participated in the Muktadhara festivals 2010 and 2012, conducting plastic barrel percussion workshops with Jana Sanskriti and ATG Halle.[4] As KURINGA was founded in 2011, the workshop Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm in Badu was the first collaboration between Jana Sanskriti and KURINGA.

From our perspective, the common grounds between KURINGA and Jana Sanskriti are our deep commitment to social transformation and a TO practice, where aesthetics stimulate the understanding of social structures that produce and nourish oppression. With Jana Sanskriti, we are convinced that Forum Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed need analytical dialogue and the search for alternatives through the construction of alliances between groups of oppressed. 

From 13 to 19 June 2016, we were invited to Badu to develop an unforgettable aesthetic experience including sounds, rhythms, flavours, colours, aromas and stories. This week allowed us to reconnect with our friends and to return to a familiar environment. We were able to get to know the newly built Augusto Boal Auditorium and had the honour to work in this impressive space. We were very happy to share time with persons deeply experienced in the method and open for a process of collective sharing and learning.


As always, we met the challenge of the adaptation of a working method to local specifities. For example: the use of objects from recycled garbage as a resource for the Sound/Rhythm process. What would be our working material in a place where bottles, barrels, tins, cardboard boxes and almost every kind of container or wrapping are recycled for domestic use or sold in the streets? Finding discarded objects that can still be of use for sound production was a collective task that led us to a stimulating discussion about concepts of garbage, of consume and waste, and about different ways of life. 


In our Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm workshops, the practical process is always connected to theoretical reflection. In Badu, it was the challenging language situation that invited us to focus on the most essential aspects. Reflections translated from English to Bengali and back from Bengali to English about concepts of oppression and transformation, about aesthetics and dramaturgy allowed a fascinating dialogue between all of us. Everybody’s openness for reflection and investigation facilitated the creation of a fertile environment for collective learning. 

Sonorous Story

Telling the sonorous stories is a crucial moment of the Sound/Rhythm process. One part of the group tells their story, only by using Sound, the other part of the group listens with closed eyes and then responds with images, using their bodies. No words are used, neither during the production of the sonorous stories nor in the dialogue of Sound and Image. Maybe the sonorous story process in Badu was the easiest and most fluid so far. Despite the complexity of the methodology, the group reached concrete stories and the images proposed seemed to echo in all persons present. The choice of one story from a variety of proposals was based on the urgency of the topic and not much time was needed for the decision process. Once there was a concrete and specific oppression, recognized by everybody, the focus was on developing sounds and images that broaden the vision of the problem. We achieved a result that was at the same time aesthetic-metaphorical and absolutely palpable: a story of exploitation and miserable working conditions in factories, especially for women.[6]


For the first time we also developed Word as aesthetic element during the Sound/Rhythm process. Even though we were in a context where we did not speak nor write the language common to the group (Bengali), it was possible to use the creation of poems as activity of common understanding of the wider social context related to the specific topic represented in the play. The group decided to produce a synthesis, using parts of all the poems produced during the aesthetic process. Word, Sound/Rhythm and Image were used to create a performance that introduced the social context of the presentation. 


The audience for the Forum Theatre presentation were people from the neighbourhood, the Badu community. They seemed to be absolutely connected to the story that was presented, as the aesthetic representation was clear and the topic of work exploitation in factories is of high relevance in the region. This connection guaranteed for diverse interventions, many spect-actors came on stage and showed their proposals for transformation.

Badu in Badu

As we were in Badu, we wanted to share the path of one or our favourite exercises called „Badu“.[7] Originally a kind of rhythmical opening ritual during the 2010 barrel percussion workshops involving the names of everybody, in our Sound/Rhythm workshops „Badu“ became a rhythm exercise with many variations. At the IV Latin American Theatre of the Oppressed Meeting, realized in January 2016 in Matagalpa/Nicaragua, one workshop participant, María Zikín, created a poem based on the exercise.[8] From the „Badu“ rhythm and the text of the poem, we created a collective rhythmical performance that opened the Forum Theatre presentation, involving the whole audience in a „badú, badú, badú” chorus. During the workshop with Jana Sanskriti, we introduced rhythm and chorus and asked for proposals: what did the group want to express about Badu? What did they want to communicate at the beginning of the presentation to the Badu community? From the proposals („There are nice people in Badu”, „There are lots of trees in Badu”, „A lot of theatre happens here”, „Ghirish Bhavan is located in Badu”[9] etc.) we created a rhythmical opening performance with sentences about Badu, singing and dancing for the Badu community that helped us in the chorus: „Badu, Badu, Badu”…  

Bárbara Santos / Till Baumann

July 2016


Te invito a sentir el ritmo,
el ritmo de tu cabeza
badú, badú, badú
descubrirás la belleza…

Te invito a sentir el ritmo,
el ritmo de tu corazón,
badú, badú, badú
encontrarás la emoción…

Te invito a sentir el ritmo,
el ritmo de tu panza,
badú, badú, badú
te llenarás de confianza…

Te invito a sentir el ritmo,
el ritmo de tus pies,
si te gustó la canción
empezamos otra vez…

Badú con la cabeza
y con el corazón,
badú, badú badú
es nuestra nueva canción.

(María Zikín 2016, inspirada en el Taller Estética Ritmo y Sonido, Enero de 2016)

[1] Bárbara Santos, Badu-Kolkata, June 15th, 2016

[2] Coordinated by Bárbara Santos (Madalena-Berlin) and Christoph Leucht (KIKMA).

[3]An aesthetic investigation on oppression faced by women.

[4] see: Till Baumann: Noisy dialogues – some remarks on tablas and plastic barrels”, in: Dia Da Costa: Scripting Power. Jana Sanskriti On and Offstage, Kolkata 2010.

[5] see: Bárbara Santos: „Teatro do Oprimido, Raízes e Asas: uma teoria da práxis”, Rio de Janeiro 2016.

[6] A topic with high relevance in West Bengal. Similar topics were proposed during the Sound/Rhythm processes in Guatemala (2012) and Bolivia (2014). This tells a lot about global capitalism and its consequences. 

[7] Exercise created by Till Baumann during the collaboration with Jana Sanskriti and ATG Halle at Muktadhara Festival in Badu (2010).

[8] „Badú“, poem by María Zikín (Nicaragua), inspired by the workshop Aesthetics of the Oppressed – Sound/Rhythm at the IV Latin American Theatre of the Oppressed Meeting, Matagalpa/Nicaragua, January 2016 (text see below).

[9] The centre of Jana Sanskriti in Badu.