I had the pleasure of interviewing Mahi Ramakrishnan from Beyond Borders Malaysia this morning for a new podcast for The Rights Track on refugees and COVID-19 in Malaysia. The podcast will be released in the coming days.
Mahi is a multiple award-wining filmmaker and investigative journalist and uses her documentaries to highlight issues related to trafficking, including the sexual, physical, mental and emotional violence unleashed against refugees, particularly against women and girls.
She uses the creative arts and performance to give refugees a voice and to lobby the Malaysian government for a comprehensive refugee policy. For a number of years, Mahi's organisation has been hosting an annual Refugee Festival, which uses public performance to raise awareness about the plight of refugees in Malaysia.
I was struck by the parallels between her work and the work of other performers who use theatre, the creative arts, and public events to raise awareness about human rights issues, including the use of performance magic.
For example, Magicians Without Borders uses magic to create a just world across many different and diverse communities. The Flying Seagull Project shares joy around the world through music, art, circus and dance. Working with vulnerable, abandoned, displaced and poor people, the project runs creative sessions to help build confidence, aid childhood development, and strengthen communication.
Minority Rights Group has used theatre and public performance across seven different countries in the Middle East and North Africa to raise awareness about ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities, reaching an audience of over 100,000 people in the region.
The moral capabilities project (MCAT) uses my own approach to performance magic to enhance our use of cultural animation and cultural co-production to help empower women in post-conflict societies.
The project is currently working with partner organisations in The Philippines, where performance magic is embedded in our training and workshop materials. We will stage a final magic show at the New Vic Theatre this summer to share our findings from this project.
Over the years, my own magic performances have been used to raise funding for Haven House and Comic Relief, among other charitable organisations, and I committed to the value behind such initiatives that combine the creative arts with the pursuit of social justice.
As we emerge from the pandemic, let us embrace magic and performance for good.
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