Magharebia (Washington DC)

24 October 2012

Mauritania: Theatre As Counter-Terror Tool

Nouakchott — Using theatre, sports and art, Mauritania is helping young people discover alternatives to extremism.

An innovative project in Mauritania's capital city uses art to make young people an effective force in society and mobilise them to reject terrorism and violence.

"The future of Mauritanian youth and their integration in active life is one of the most important priorities for the current government," Nouakchott wali Fall N'Guissaly said at the launch of the Regional Week for Culture, Youths and Sports, which wrapped up on Thursday (October 18th).

Cultural associations, sports clubs, and art groups in Nouakchott participated in the event. Activities included theatrical shows, sports matches, group songs, and awareness-raising lectures about the impact of extremism on Mauritanian youth.

Talks also covered the role that young people can play in boosting national unity.

"Countering extremism and terrorism, consolidating national unity and enhancing citizenship are the main pivots of this meeting with young people," N'Guissaly said.

Nouakchott community leader Ahmed Ould Hamza called on the young event participants to contribute to the development of their city.

"It is also important to involve local elected officials in activities related to the development of youth," he said.

Theatrical shows tackled the issue of what happens to young people who join extremist and terrorist networks, playwright Mohamed Salem Ould Khalih told Magharebia.

"Terrorism, which is now the issue of the hour in Mauritania and the Sahel, was addressed in group shows and songs, starting with its definition, showing its methods and ending with its negative impact," he said.

"There is no doubt that this event was an outlet for young people to present their talents in singing and acting," Ould Khalih said. "It actually helped direct young people towards things that would serve society."

Siley Ould Abdelfettah, who won the award for the best theatrical show on combating terrorism and enhancing national unity, pointed out that art can help convey a positive message.

"Theatre - including my play 'Whisper' - combats extremism because it speaks directly to the conscience of society; something that made it an effective element in awareness and guidance," Ould Abdelfettah told Magharebia.

He described his play as a "physical expression about estrangement within the home country".

"This aversion between people turns into conflict that leads to bloody fighting," he explained. "The belligerent realises that they need to reach an understanding when they discover that they inevitably live on the same land," Ould Abdelfettah said.

The enthusiastic audience response to his show, the young playwright added, "means that its message has been communicated".

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