In 2022 we completed the 9-month project Met.a.phorum, a public dialogue and performance project on otherness, cross-cultural dialogue, and intercultural understanding. Recognizing that stereotypes perpetuate the narrative of us versus them, we asked foreign-born people who live in the Czech Republic, and Czech-born people, to be part of a project that narrows that polarizing gap.
Met.a.phorum promotes stronger social cohesion between Czechs and foreign-born residents of Czech Republic through choreographed dialogue, storytelling and performance. Participants actively reflected on their individual experiences and dialogued on questions of living together and common values. The project had two separate ‘acts’ which over nine months strived to connect people who normally would not meet in the same space, in order to counter division and misunderstanding. The two acts worked with different forms of aesthetic expression, with each act designed to prompt open dialogue with the public (a forum). Act I was a creative public dialogue, while Act II was a theatrical performance and post-performance public forum on social cohesion and understanding.
Act I started with a Prologue: What I Am (Not). We invited all foreign-born people living in Czech Republic to send us a short message - a message that can be said in a SINGLE BREATH - on how they see themselves and their identity as a foreign-born person here. We collected and transformed these messages into works of poetry and visual art that went on display as a gallery to accompany the choreographed public dialogue of Act I.
In Act I, we invited all foreign-born people and Czechs to come together for a choreographed public dialogue. In this event, a set of questions and simple physical activities were used to make ideas about otherness visible, followed by what we call diversity dialogues that produce a stronger "we".
Act II brought together four foreign-born volunteers to develop and perform 15-minute dramatic monologues that express their lived experience on otherness and polarization. After the performance, audience and actors met in a human library to share impressions about the performances, and engage in humanizing dialogue that strengthened community bonds.
The project explored questions about our own beliefs regarding otherness, in a space that fostered tolerance and openness. It engaged in a new kind of dialogue that revealed unexpected commonalities. It built empathy and re-imagined what host communities could look like.
This project was in cooperation and funded by
Prologue: What I Am (Not)
What would you say to the world if you had one breath to say it?
Many divisions in society are caused by stereotypes and preconceptions.
Help us change that by sharing your view and your story! We invite foreign-
born people living in Czech Republic to create a personal response to the
theme What I Am (Not).
That one-breath response can be:
A reflection of your experience and/or identity as a person living outside
your country of birth
A reflection on the stereotypes people project on you. What box are you
put in by others?
Things you wish people understood about you or people like you
In short...who are you, and who are you not?
We will transform your response and those of others into works of poetry and visual art. These will go on display at various venues in Prague and Brno, starting in May. Names will not be revealed. Submitting a message does not obligate you to participate further in the project (Act I or Act II).
1. Say what you would like to say in response to the prompt: What I Am (Not)
2. You must be able to read the message in one breath
3. Your message must be in English or in Czech (doesn't need to be perfect - just understandable)
4. You should be a foreign-born person living anywhere in Czech Republic (resident status irrelevant)
Met.a.phorum: dialogue in motion (Act I)
The beginning. The breath. The oxygen in the room.
Act I was a participatory, choreographed public event examining otherness and intercultral understanding that integrated practices from the fields of fine arts, applied theatre and conflict transformation. The event engaged participants in a collective experience that was intimate yet analytical, using simple physical action as a way to organize ideas and make thoughts visible.
The chorus of single-breath responses from the Prologue were transformed into 6 poems, each accompanied by visual art. The poetry and artwork were displayed as a gallery, as part of this choreographed, restorative public dialogue event.
The poetry/artwork gallery and choreographed event comprising Act I were held in several venues in Prague and in Brno.
Met.a.phorum Act II:
How can we find connection amid so much division? Watch as four ordinary people perform four brave dramatic monologues of their experience as an outsider - an 'other'. As they unmask themselves, so will you.
Four real stories, written and performed by foreigners living in Prague. The performance was followed by an interactive human library, where audience and actors met to share experiences and engage in humanizing dialogue that strengthens common bonds.
A touching, tender event that narrows the gap of intercultural otherness, strengthens connection, and creates common ground through a participatory theatrical performance in which the symbolic stories of four brave souls provoked questions surrounding place, belonging, and acceptance.