(Kevin EG Perry’s article was posted 4/12 in the Guardian.)
Sibaguda is a remote tribal village in southern Odisha state, in the east of India. There are just 49 households, and cows are frequently herded through the main square. The electricity supply has been disrupted by a broken transformer and the only road has fallen into disrepair. What Sibaguda does have, in common with many tribal villages, is a central meeting place where theatre is performed. Now, thanks to one particular performance, a school is being built here for the first time.
Amaresh Satapathy works for the Integrated Agency for Education, Environment and Technology (IAEET) in the nearby town of Koraput. Although his organisation works on everything from land rights to public health, Satapathy describes himself as a theatre activist. He first visited Sibaguda in 2007 as the leader of a Unicef-backed group performing street theatre to raise awareness of the importance of hand-washing.
They performed in tribal villages around the Koraput district, and locals said they had all learned important lessons from the plays. However, when they returned to the villages they found that the messages were quickly forgotten. "We asked people which part they remembered," Satapathy says. "They talked about the entertainment, the tragedy and the comedy, but nobody remembered the message."