P4P medium Grant 

“Theatre as action: Imagining peace and stability in South Omo through effective governance and fair representation

Oliasarali Olibui Tongolu (PI), Tesfahun Hailu (Co-I), Shauna LaTosky (Co-I), Alexandra Genova (Co-I), Ben Young (Co-I)

This collaborative project between researchers and creative artists uses performance and theatre to explore and imagine what political representation and integration of ethnic groups in Ethiopia might look like against the backdrop of radical reforms and recently renewed commitment to democratisation. The project focuses on the Mursi (hereafter Mun, or Muni, sing., a self-designation), a group in the peripheral areas of Southern Ethiopia where power remains highly centralised, who have never had a Member of Parliament in the House of Peoples’ Representatives and remain excluded from local, regional and national politics. Based on research on what effective and governance might look like for the agro-pastoralist Mun, the team will script and stage a play written in the Mun language on this theme, inviting parliamentarians to participate as actors and spectators, in order to influence and change opinions amongst policy-makers regarding the persistent exclusion of South Omo from national politics. The team also envisage making a film about the making of the play, that can be shown to political figures and social actors across Ethiopia, in order to generate conversations about attitudes towards, and knowledge of, the people and cultures of South Omo.

About the team

Olisarali Olibui is an agro-pastoralist from South Omo, and a member of the Mun ethnic group. He is an award-winning documentary-maker, whose film ‘Shooting with the Mursi’ provides the context for this new project imagining what political inclusion of the Mun might look like. Here he collaborates with Tesfahun Hailu, a playwright and filmmaker from Mekelle University, to produce research-based creative outputs designed to positively impact South Omo political inclusion as Ethiopia moves towards democratic transition. Olisarali and Tesfahun combine their efforts with host organisation, South Omo Theatre Company, whose broader set of aims includes promoting indigenous performance , participation and integration into Ethiopia’s theatre scene.