On the 30th March, I was fortunate enough to be in Tuzla, to attend the premiere of U IME OCA / In the Name of the Father (ITNOTF), a docu-dance theatre production by Darrel Toulon and the Alpha Group, a co-production with the Tuzla National Theater, which brings to light the experiences, and voices, of children born of war in Bosnia.
Travelling to Bosnia from London earlier on the 30th, I had time to think about the event I was due to attend in Tuzla, that evening, and to reflect on some of what came before. As someone who has been involved from the very beginning of the CHIBOW ITN, I have an appreciation of the long journey that was undertaken by many people to arrive at this particular day, and the great efforts involved in making this particular event come to fruition.
Photo by Sakher Almonem showing Jasmina Ibrahimović, Ajna Jusić, Marija Novaković, Sadika Kahrimanović
The efforts of the many came to rest in the hands of Choreographer, Darrel Toulon, who brought the production to life in a space that invited participation with, and collaboration between, children born of war (CBOW), political activists, performers, academic researchers, choreographers, dramatists and musicians.
Later that day, I would be one of 300 people who swamped the National Theatre in Tuzla, travelling from as far afield as Mostar to attend, to experience the world premiere of Darrel Toulon’s U IME OCA, the second of a three-part project, In the Name of the Father.
The emotional anticipation in the theatre was palpable and this remained evident throughout the production. The cast; a combination of professionals and Bosnian children born of war, brought CBOW stories to life through powerful and mesmerising performances, that facilitated total immersion from the audience, who were evidently entirely invested in experiencing this important moment for Bosnian society.
The 90-minute piece of physical theater, which does not shy away from the violence and trauma experienced by many CBOW, ended with a demonstration of bridge building and unity between the youthful ensemble onstage and a diverse intergenerational audience who packed the auditorium, with total strangers embracing, as though they were family members. The authenticity of the production was mirrored in the audience, many of whom did nothing to hide the strength of emotion they felt in response to the stories they heard that night. The tapestry of movement, sound and light, facilitated an emotional and physical response in the audience, whose final act was to provide a standing ovation.
At the end of ITNOTF I joined the post show panel to represent Prof. Sabine Lee, of the University of Birmingham, who provided academic consultancy and worked closely with Toulon in the lead up to the production. Dr Amra Delic, who has been instrumental in the development of the docu-dance, chaired the panel. Amra was also Joined by CBOWs Alen Muhić and Ajna Jusić (who herself was also one of the performers), the young Bosnian actor Ermin Avdić and the Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum Sarajevo, Sabine Kernthaller, who host a post-performance reception at the theatre.
During the panel one audience member described how he had never cried at the theatre, in fact, he was not really someone who cried much, but that night while he watched ITNOTF he had cried for all the stories and all of the children. This show of empathy, while in isolation could be dismissed, was echoed throughout the audience, and it’s this shift in public discourse that is most promising and most exciting for researchers who strive for political and social change.
Toulon’s endless vision, creativity and compassion for the experiences of children born of war, and his commitment to integrating the voices of CBOW, as well as the expertise of academics who have been working on these issues globally for years, resulted in an incredibly powerful and moving performance, that has raised the profile of this important issue, and will continue to do so as it tours Bosnia later this year.
Artistic direction: Darrel Toulon
Music: Donika Rudi, Norbert Wally
Text developed with: Jelena Čajić, Nadia Delić-Klevstad