Wan Smol Bag – Using Theatre to Educate
If you’re from Papua New Guinea, you have most likely heard of The Raun Raun Theatre – PNG’s only national drama company. If you’re from Vanuatu, there is no doubt that you have heard of Wan Smolbag Theatre – not only that country’s most popular theatrical group but also the most popular NGO operating in our Melanesian neighbours.
I’m actually a little bit surprised that it took me this long to come across Wan Smolbag Theatre, considering their success – and I’ll be honest with you, they have totally blown me away with their initiatives, innovations and infrastructure. It’s almost unbelievable!
Wan Smolbag Theatre (WSB) was established in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in 1989. It began as an amateur theatre group with 15 voluntary actors. Since that time WSB has established a national and regional reputation as a development theatre organisation that produces and delivers locally-produced, high quality film, radio and theatre productions that are complemented by a range of workshop and printed materials. Coupled with structured workshops facilitated by actors, the organisation uses drama to inform, raise awareness and encourage public discussion on a range of contemporary health, lifestyle, environment and governance issues.
The use of development theatre has led WSB into other areas such as reproductive heath clinics, youth centres, and a rural-based conservation network. In 1997, WSB spent six months working closely with the Blacksands/Tagabe peri-urban settlement community, which has high levels of unemployment and illiteracy.
During this time a community play was developed, and research was conducted into many issues affecting the contemporary daily lives of community members. As result of this collaboration WSB initiated a new reproductive health clinic (Kam Pusum Hed or KPH) at its base in Port Vila. KPH has gone on to be a model for the region of a confidential, youth-friendly reproductive health service. They have also duplicated the KPH model in Santo, with the Northern Youth Care Clinic.
In December 2002 WSB was awarded the Pacific People of the Year accolade by Islands Business magazine. As at October 2008, WSB had over 100 full- and part-time staff; actors, director, scriptwriter, finance and admin staff, graphic artist, nurses, peer educators, youth workers, film and radio technicians, and managers.
I thought I might include one of WBS’s many educational posters:
To see Part 2 of the Wan Smolbag Theatre clip, click here.