Defending asylum seekers: Refugees be taught the artwork of comedy | Comedy

Defending asylum seekers: Refugees be taught the artwork of comedy |  Comedy
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Defending asylum seekers: Refugees be taught the artwork of comedy |  Comedy

men Athens, a handful of rookie standups take to the microphone after collaborating in a collection of comedy workshops. One of many organizers, Vasileia Vaxevani, compares the expertise to the primary time you’ve got intercourse. “She finishes rapidly. It hurts a bit. However you undoubtedly know you wish to do it once more.”

Migration is the unusually hilarious theme on the coronary heart of this present produced by Counterpoint Arts and carried out by refugees and asylum seekers as a part of Refugee Week whose theme this yr was ‘therapeutic’. In an viewers as various as this live performance, and in a rustic that has seen its communities divide on account of polarized responses to migration, the flexibility of that theme is manifest.

Award-winning British comic Tom Parry, who has helped ship an identical collection of workshops and performances for the No Course House present since 2018, led facilitators in Athens and Lesbos to show the infamously nerve-wracking artwork of stand-up comedy. Chatting with migrants and non-migrants alike, he informed them through Zoom that “it does not should be humorous, it simply must be attention-grabbing.”

On a heat afternoon in Lesbos, we see Salim Nabi, as soon as an Afghan refugee now a Canadian resident, carry out on the Mosaik middle within the finale of one other collection of workshops, co-produced with Miguel Selvelli of Nepantla Border Cultures. “Refugees are troublemakers,” says Nabi. “Take the NGO Refugee 4 Refugees for example. It makes you suppose… Why is it written like that? Nicely, they are saying for those who let one refugee in, impulsively, they turn into 4 refugees.”

Lesbos was beforehand house to the Moria refugee camp, one of many largest in Europe, which burned down in 2020. The island noticed its inhabitants develop by 20,000 refugees, most of whom have now gone to neighboring nations. However Lesbos stays a hub for these working within the migration sectors, and later a middle for immigrant-oriented arts. Mosaik’s live performance featured seven comedians, a mixture of refugees, immigrants, volunteers and NGO staff.

Defending asylum seekers: Refugees be taught the artwork of comedy |  Comedy
‘That is the primary time somebody has requested you to inform a narrative about your life’… Majid on the microphone. Cinematography: Athina Lekka

Jalal Joinda, facilitator of the Lesbos programme, echoes Parry, saying: “Individuals suppose that if you wish to make others snicker, you must know a variety of jokes. However while you’re doing standup, you possibly can put in your personal tales.” That is particularly helpful for refugees, he says, reflecting on his personal “nightmare” border crossings. Joinda, a former radio speak present host and common media persona in Afghanistan, fled the nation in 2016 along with his household after political hostility. He first got here to Moria and lived and labored on Lesbos for a number of years earlier than transferring to Berlin. “I by no means wish to neglect what occurred to me,” he says. “It is rather essential to at all times discuss what has occurred to you, as a result of maybe you possibly can forestall it from occurring to different individuals.”

After we converse to a younger man from Central Africa within the Kara Tepe camp, Moria’s substitute, Joinda explains that as refugees, it is crucial that they each acquire self-confidence. That’s one other engaging side of those workshops, in addition to interacting with the area people in Mytilene, practising their English and spending time ready for pink tape equivalent to receiving paperwork (this man has been ready virtually two years for his). Comedy is “simple to digest,” Joinda tells me, which makes her one among its strongest spokespersons. “When you simply say horrible issues to individuals, it is going to be more durable for them to digest as a result of we’re all so uninterested in the nonsense that occurs around the globe. Comedy is a method to ship robust messages to individuals with out making them really feel bored.”

Comedy additionally forges frequent floor between communities that, whereas having totally different experiences, are in a position to bond by means of humor in on a regular basis observations. On the Athens live performance, two younger Afghan immigrants, Arash and Majid, carry out materials on, respectively, the shortcoming to flirt and the trials of annoying cousins. Arash, who arrived in Greece in 2016, is worked up to have realized how one can shoot. “Majid informed us very overtly that that is the primary time that somebody has requested him to inform a narrative about his life. [in Afghanistan]”, reveals Vaxevani. And in one thing greater than looking for asylum, too. “The dialog is at all times, ‘Oh, that poor immigrant or refugee, poor Afghan, poor Syrian,’” Vaxevani observes. However these newbie comedians are “actual individuals, they’ve attention-grabbing tales, they’ve had complete, enjoyable lives.”

Because the warfare in Ukraine and the British authorities’s asylum scheme in Rwanda have stored migration within the information headlines, the comedy gives a brand new means of framing the discourse. As a substitute of treating them as a group of “unhappy tales” and topics of inhuman politics, standup artwork permits migrants to easily be human.

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