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Photography by Nardus Engelbrecht

REFUGE – cross-continent stories of resilience

It is plausible to assume that South Africa and the United Kingdom are vastly different. However during the conceptualisation process for a proposal to be part of the British Council Connect ZA’s new partnership initiative, master playwright, Amy Jephta and writer and director, Paul Blinkhorn, spotted the similarities between South Africa and the UK. The standout similarity being refugees.

Immigration is a topical issue in both states. The Brexit proposition brought forward the discomfort that the UK had with refugees and being a beacon of hope on continent, South Africa attracts an influx of refugees.

“This idea or thinking around refugees and where refugees go and where they belong and what they are going through, leaving what kind of situations they are leaving is a global conversation and it is both relevant to South Africa and to the UK and it was a topic that we felt we could connect on and say something about,” said Amy.

The project called REFUGE that will take place in Cape Town, South Africa and Manchester, UK seeks to tell the stories of the lived experiences of refugees in these cities. The performance will “use actors to portray those stories, to speak those testimonies, to use those exact works, to give life to those stories,” said Amy.

Currently Amy and Paul are in the first phase of their project, which involves week-long interviews with refugees in Cape Town. After transcribing and working on the text for their scripts, they aim to have an open reading of the testimonies about seeking refuge at the end of May in Cape Town.

The project will later move to North Manchester, where the pair will follow the same procedure. However, they believe that the performance will take on different forms. “There is going to be a South African element…there is going to be a UK element and then I think there is going to be something beyond that, which is a mixture of the two,” said Paul.

Amy and Paul have been in partnership with People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) and Befriending Refugees And Asylum Seekers (BRASS), who have aided them in connecting with refugees.

Furthermore, British Council Connect ZA has afforded Amy and Paul the opportunity to collaborate on a project that has the capacity to connect people with different aspects of the human experience. Moreover, REFUGE is a performance project that causes the audience to listen to the authentic stories of refugees. This project humanises refugees so there can be empathy within communities.

So far both Amy and Paul have been left in awe with the resilience of the human spirit and everything refugees endure on a daily basis. The project will hopefully be made accessible beyond the theatres it will be housed in. There are plans to archive the material online so many more will be able to engage with the experiences of others.


‘This article forms part of content created for the British Council Connect ZA 2017 Programme. To find out more about the programme click here.’

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