Development theatre and the process of re-empowerment: the Gibeon story

The author recounts his experience in developing Community Listening Theatre with RISE, a Namibian NGO that works in shanty-town districts and with dispossessed farming communities. In depicting their concerns through dramatic expression, previously diffident people began to address pressing political issues, and to challenge their own 'self-oppression', before proceeding to organise around specific issues, and take sometimes audacious collective action towards their own (re)empowerment. Reflecting on the role of the outsider, the author warns that it often proves disempowering to assume that such experience can be distilled into a replicable formula. This article is freely available as a chapter in Development and Social Action.