“What will this day be to me?
How do I call it?
The day that made me know
That I am a human being.
The day that make me realize
That I am a part of people.
The day I taste chocolate.”
From Michael Littig:
I remember the day that Ojullu gave me this poem. He had gotten the chance to perform as an actor for the first time in front of an audience the day before and he was overjoyed. I can still remember us walking through the desert and the way he seemed to skip through the air as he recounted his feelings.
It was also the first time he had ever tasted chocolate in his life. I remember asking him in that moment, “Really? You’ve never tasted chocolate?” As he placed the chocolate in his mouth, he shared with me that “It looks like mud. It’s very sweet. It tastes like honey.”
Ojullu was a member of the Dadaab Theater Project, which facilitated an artistic exchange between theater students from America and refugees hailing from the war torn countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. With my colleague Julianna Bloodgood, we created and facilitated the program in Dadaab for five months living and working in the world’s largest refugee camp with over 380,000 refugees.
Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can still feel the way the young children from Ethiopia delicately trace my skin because they have never touched a white person. Or the advice my friends gave me, “Listen, if you hear a sound like, boom, ka, ka, ka, ka, the fighting is very far. But, if you hear whizzing sounds, woo, be very careful!” And then how after revealing such a disturbing truth, the laughter that followed as they enacted the dance of dodging bullets.
Humanity and one’s own story, I have come to learn through travel and experiences such as the Dadaab Theater Project are complex. The act of facing one’s own cultural assumptions and learning of another’s is often quite difficult. The beauty of theater is that the empty space can act as a neutralizer for this encounter and be used as peace building and diplomacy, beginning the healing process between one’s self and others.
From The Great Globe Foundation, from Ojullu, who is now in high school in Nairobi, from Michael Littig, and from Professor Richard Hess, who will again work with Ojullu in Kenya though the Great Globe Foundation and a Fulbright Grant, we thank you and wish you a happy, healthy, and chocolate-filled holiday season.