A Postcard from Kate Ashley Clarke on the formation of Tuzina
Students at the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program become dance activists for the women and children of Uganda.
Kate Ashley Clarke and Fellow Students from the Ailey/Fordham Dance BFA Program and Columbia University
Create Tuzina -- An Organization Using Dance to Promote Peace in War Ravaged East and Central Africa
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Background of Conflict:
For the past 23 years, a war has been raging between the government of Uganda and a rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army
. Over time it has spread to the surrounding areas of Sudan, Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony
, believes himself to be a “Prophet of God.” He professes that God told him to overthrow the Ugandan government and kill anyone who stands in his way. When he could not gain the support of his people, the Acholi tribe of Northern Uganda, he began kidnapping children in order to use them as his soldiers, porters, cooks, and wives.
The atrocities these children have faced among the LRA
ranks are unspeakable. Many are forced to kill their own families. Many have been raped or have had their lips cut off to threaten them to never disclose Kony’s location should they escape. Those who have been fortunate enough to escape are often not accepted back into their homes and communities because their relatives distrust them now that they have been brainwashed and forced to commit acts of brutality.
When I first learned about this conflict in 2004, my heart was immediately drawn to the abducted children. Because my family had just adopted my younger sister
Dance is a powerful vehicle through which communities internationally are willing to mobilize.
I wanted to harness the passion of the dancers, teachers, and audiences here in New York City and translate it to meet the basic physical, emotional, and mental needs of orphans and child soldiers.
from Russia at that time, I had seen video footage of the austerity of life in a Russian orphanage. How terrible, then, it must be for children who had no place to which they could return if they managed to escape Kony’s rebel army.
Over the next eight years, I began to develop an idea that has the potential to change the way we view dance’s capacity to enhance peace and reconciliation initiatives around the globe. Dance is a powerful vehicle through which communities internationally are willing to mobilize. I wanted to harness the passion of the dancers, teachers, and audiences here in New York City and translate it to meet the basic physical, emotional, and mental needs of orphans and child soldiers. Thus Tuzina was born, an arts exchange program which seeks to establish a personal connection with war-affected communities in East and Central Africa and equip them to use dance to work through trauma.
Tuzina and The Mission
Tuzina (We Dance) is a group of dedicated students from the Ailey/Fordham Dance BFA program and a filmmaker from Columbia University who will be traveling to Lukodi, Uganda in May to collaborate in dance classes and performances with former child wives and children of the surrounding communities. We are partnering with ChildVoice International
, an organization that has set up a village of refuge and holistic care called the Lukome Center for women who were abducted by the LRA and used as their “wives.”
During our trip, we will teach dance classes that are specifically geared toward promoting personal expression in addition to facilitating the use of movement as a method of working through emotional trauma. In order to prepare to teach these classes, we are doing an extensive five-class workshop with Cara Gallo, dance therapist with Embodied Psychotherapy
. We will also take East African dance classes from the women of the Lukome Center. Throughout our collaborative process with the women and children of Lukodi, we will film our interactions in order to create a documentary that we will screen in New York upon our return to raise awareness about the lasting effects of the LRA’s attacks on Northern Uganda.
Our trip to Uganda is the first step of our long-term goal of establishing rehabilitative arts schools. As such, we will use it to inform our curriculum, faculty members, and teaching styles. We wish to take a holistic approach in educating and meeting the needs of these children, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Our hope is to found a company based out of the arts schools we develop that will perform internationally to keep the cross-cultural tradition of empowerment and storytelling alive.
Tuzina brings deeper meaning to the simple act of enjoying a dance performance. Our vision is to create a cross-cultural exchange in which company performances here in New York directly support and educate children of post-conflict regions through funding our arts schools. Empowerment happens on two levels: we empower American audiences to promote social justice and renewal by attending performances and we empower African children to use dance to celebrate their culture and work through their trauma.
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