While having a casual conversation with Sanyukta, I shared with her my experience of being part of a group reading Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. She caught on to this and remarked that Aagaaz’s Facilitator’s Collective could read this book. I asked her if I could be part of the readings, because I enjoy reading Freire, and with a group that I have wanted to get to know more and be associated with made me excited. After a few days (I don’t remember the timeline exactly!!), she asked me if I would be interested in initiating the reading of Pedagogy of the Oppressed with the Collective. My exact words were, “I am really honoured and humbled”.
I was thinking about ways to hold space and initiate the reading, and decided that the best way (and the way I believe in) is that no one person control the flow of discussions /reading. Most importantly, personal connection, and locating yourself in the themes arising from the text, was vital to understand Freire. This understanding became the foundation of all the readings and, I must confess, there wasn’t any need to ‘facilitate’ the reading sessions at all, as we were all holding space for each other. Like Freire envisions an education where the students and teachers together co-create knowledge, we were together creating pedagogical understanding of Freire, which grew from our personal experiences, thereby collectively owning the process.
The nuanced, complex, and layered perspectives of Oppression, Dialogue, Subversion, Oppressed, Oppressor, Identity, Liberation became the roots of our understanding Freire. Our opinions, thoughts from our diverse beliefs, politics, educational experiences, personal and professional experiences lend the necessary fuel/ ammunition for the roots to become stronger and deeper, and be able to grow wider and create new paradigms/ perspectives/ societies etc. While writing this paragraph I was looking at the Tree of Theatre of the Oppressed and was amazed at how, as a group, our roots are forming, strengthening, and evolving.
An important part of reading as heavy a text as Pedagogy of the Oppressed is joy. Joy in being a part of a collective, joy in sharing our lives with each other, being able to laugh and truly feel what we read; joy in silences, as we are lost in thought; joy in questioning Friere, in seeing the different opinions and being non-judgmental; joy in listening to each other; joy in the “Aha!” moments (when someone says something/ asks a question and there is a realisation that this needs to seep in and be captured in the chats).
So here is to Freire and I, Freire and us, and Freire and many more. As Boal said, we are multipliers- so let us multiply and create a more inclusive world.
Ravi Ramaswamy is a Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner, trainer, and a Trustee at the Centre for Community Dialogue and Change, Bangalore. Through his Theatre of the Oppressed practice, he has worked with diverse groups such as prisoners, farmers, students, youth, teachers and health professionals. Ravi also teaches courses in Development communication, journalism and social psychology using Theatre of the Oppressed.
Illustration by Jasmine