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Interview conducted by CH – November 2005

   Italicised words are the English words used by the interviewee during the interview
   Comments by transcriber/ translator shown within brackets

1. Could you start by maybe briefly telling me a little bit about how you came to be in the
   Butterfly Garden and came to work here?
    Pause for translation into Tamil
    There was a call in the papers when Butterfly Garden was still at conceptual stage. It sounded
    different, playing with children etc. I had a keen interest in the arts and liked painting. I also
    was involved in drama. Based on all of this I applied for the post of Animator. I wasn’t
    selected at the interview someone else was. I then participated in a workshop organised by
    Suriya Women’s Development Centre. The Director of Butterfly Garden was also present at
    this workshop and had been watching my performance. He then spoke to me and asked me to
    direct a play for the opening ceremony of Butterfly Garden. This was in 1996. Subsequently I
    joined Butterfly Garden.
    Pause for translation into English

2. Can you tell me something about the drama and theatre activities you do here? I have seen in
   the pictures and I have read in the book called Ocean of Stories that you do clowning and
   body painting but I am very interested in your theatre activities so tell me a bit more about
    Pause for translation into Tamil
    I have not learnt the art of make-up but use my own ideas while doing make-up for
    performances. We have some make-up products with us but we don’t know how to use it. In
    terms of working with children, if a group of children have come on a particular day we do
    something called a story activity. Within the course of the day we create a story together with
    the children. For example we have story stones, which is used to create stories and also
    something called the mud mountain where forms are created with clay and stories are made
    using them. Once a story has been created we plan the drama form and practice it with the
    children. We don’t write a script for this. The story is created by the children themselves so
    they understand the characters. Then make-up is applied in the drama room and the drama is
    performed in the evening. The important aspect of this activity is that the stories that are
    created by the children reflect on issues from their backgrounds. We also have something
    called Clown Theatre. Pause for translation into English. There are several children’s
    groups, which come on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They come here for 9
                                                     Interview with G/ Butterfly Garden– Tape 3

   months and at the end of this we organise a big ceremony to which the parents are invited.
   The children practice for 3 months and take part in a rehearsal before the performance.
   Finally one drama with the participation of all the children is staged. The drama includes
   song, comedy etc. interwoven into an unusual story line. Both Tamil and Muslim children
   join in this effort. Pause for translation into English. We have video tapes of the ceremony.
   Pause for translation into English.

3. It sounds wonderful. Do the children perform in the clowning as well?
   Pause for translation into Tamil.
   Pause for translation into English.

4. What was the impact of the theatre work on the children? What values did the children gain
   from the experience?
   Pause for translation into Tamil.
   There is great value as a result of this. We select the children from schools with the input of
   teachers and the principal. As a result children who are slow in learning, those who have
   family problems, whose families have been affected by war, natural disasters etc. are chosen.
   The teachers identify the children who have problems in their lives and suggest them for the
   programme. As follow up we conduct school visits from time to time to assess how the
   children are progressing. We speak to them and monitor changes in them. Expressing their
   skills through drama is powerful because it helps bring out the worries that trouble them.
   PART UNCLEAR. [As per translation during interview: This is a positive impact of the
   activities of Butterfly Garden]. Pause for translation into English. The children don’t like
   going to school but they like to come for the workshops held by Butterfly Garden (laughs).
   Pause for translation into English.
   Interviewer: I am sure. Such a beautiful thing.

5. I want to ask a little more about the clowning theatre. Where did you get the ideas to do the
   clowning theatre. Can you tell me a little bit about that? I saw the photos where the bodies
   are painted and then the big wigs etc. How did the children respond? Did they like that
   process of dressing up and painting themselves?
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   Lots of dramas are made but it is done in a very normal manner. Even if you look at TV
   programmes the characters are mainly of humans, birds, animals and trees etc. At Butterfly
   Garden we try to do things differently. Even for the final programme when thinking of titles
   we do it differently. The children have to be encouraged to use their imagination. I don’t
   know where these ideas come from. Pause for translation into English. It’s a gift from
   Butterfly Garden. Pause for translation into English. Translator poses the second part of

                                                   Interview with G/ Butterfly Garden– Tape 3

   the question once again. If one child is painted or if I apply body paint the rest of the
   children will come running wanting to be painted too. The children are fascinated by the
   colours. PART UNCLEAR [Translation at interview: The children like to participate in
   the Clown Theatre. The animators are also treated like children during this process
   where everyone enjoys and laughs]

6. For the Clowning Theatre do you write scripts based on the stories the children have made as
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   When we perform street dramas we give them a theme which revolves around a social issue.
   These issues may relate to problems faced by children or ones that affect them. Parents tend
   to dismiss children when they come forward to tell something saying that they should not
   interrupt the conversation of elders. It may be that they are hungry or sick but they are
   pushed away. This greatly affects children. We take ideas from the children and present them
   to the society through dramatic form. When the audience view these performances they are
   entertained but they also understand the underlying message. Their thoughts are provoked
   through the unusual images projected by us.
   Pause for translation into English.

7. Are the street dramas performed in Batticaloa? In the villages these children come from?
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   Yes. We perform these dramas in the villages from where the children come from.
   Pause for translation into English
   Mainly Batticaloa town, market areas etc.
   Pause for translation into English

8. How do the children feel about performing in their own villages?
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   When we were planning for the street dramas we were not sure whether the same freedom
   with which the children perform here will be present when they perform in their own
   villages. We had a Sunday programme 5 years ago. The children who attended this are now
   doing their O/L’s and A/L’s. The street dramas were done by these children. Their reactions
   were the opposite of what we had thought would be. We thought they would be scared or
   would be shy to perform with make-up. So this effort was very successful for us. We had
   planned that in case they refuse to perform in their villages that the locations can be
   Pause for translation into English

                                                    Interview with G/ Butterfly Garden– Tape 3

9. Has the programme in Butterfly Garden changed and developed a lot during the past 10
   years? Have there been significant moments of change?
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   Definitely! It started with 8 people initially. From that point onwards there is change
   happening on a daily basis along with the increase in activities. If a child does something
   particular today it has to be changed into another activity tomorrow. By using different ideas
   there is change on a daily basis. We cannot be doing the same old thing. As animators if we
   keep doing the same activity with the children day in and day out boredom will settle down
   on us and we will become frustrated with our occupation. Further I see significant growth in
   the organisation. PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: within Batticaloa, people
   don’t realise the value of Butterfly Garden including me (transalator). But ] interest has
   been shown in our activities from places such as Anamaduwa, Trinco, Jaffna and Mannar.
   PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: Butterfly Garden also has a website.
   Some people from Cambodia visited Butterfly Garden as a result of this and have plans
   to start a similar organisation in Cambodia. People from Trincomalee have also shown
   an interest in a similar manner. This is a very good development.]. Some have even
   received training here and there have been more requests for training. Initially we started
   working with children and now have grown to a level where we have begun training others.
   For example organisations like World Vision and Save the Children have made requests for
   workshops. PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: after the tsunami most NGOs
   began to concentrate on tsunami related activities especially with children.
   Nevertheless, they did not know how to work with children, to handle them and to heal
   their hearts. These organisations have funds etc. but they don’t have the ideas.
   Therefore, they have asked Butterfly Garden to provide training for their staff &
   conduct workshops]. The reason for our growth is that we concentrate on the needs of the
   children through the children themselves. We keep evaluating our activities and discuss
   alternatives to solve issues. Mainly we try to adapt a different approach to our work.
   Batticaloa is a different type of a place. Those who come experience a different mindset. .
   PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: The place where Butterfly Garden is
   situated is not its own. It was gifted to them by a ‘Father’ (Priest). The land was full of
   wild vegetation, which they themselves cleaned up in order to build Butterfly Garden.
   They even erected the wall, painted etc. The staff were committed towards this whole
   effort. Even though he (interviewee) holds an important position in the organisation, if
   he comes in the morning he takes the broom to clean up the place. He always thinks
   that this is his home.
   Interviewer: Wow.
   Every animator has this attitude. They tell the children that since they are able to keep
   their surroundings clean they are also able to keep the children in a similar manner.
   When they return to Butterfly Garden after the holidays they all join to repaint the
   building and when the children return everything seems fresh.] Interviewee continues
   PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: They do ‘earth work’ which is mainly
   working in the garden, ‘art work’ which is drama, cultural programmes etc. and then

                                                     Interview with G/ Butterfly Garden– Tape 3

   they do ‘heart work’ which revolves around healing, meditation, yoga etc. In every
   drama these three aspects are represented. Interviewer: Oh. In the drama they represent the
   idea. That’s beautiful. And then the clowning theatre as well. Interviewee: Yes.
   Interviewer: Beautiful.

10. What is your philosophy of practice? And how you achieve ‘healing of the heart’ that you
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   Like I mentioned earlier, we work closely with schools and parents. We are able to closely
   monitor the changes in the children through this. But we don’t have a level of measurement
   as such. PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: after conducting evaluations they
   published a book. The animators always play with the children. They have a bird’s
   cage, a cuckoo’s nest and they have one to one games. They don’t ask questions directly
   from the children but instead play with them. By playing with the children we are able to
   gauge what kind of problems these children face. For example we had a boy who was very
   boisterous and loud. He would interrupt the activities. Now there is a marked change in him
   and you hardly realise he is present in the group. He has become very calm. PART
   UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: Through their reactions and thoughts we can
   observe changes in them. It is difficult to say this in words.] Interviewer: Sure.

11. Your work sounds very challenging? Are there any outside constraints or challenges that you
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   There is no problem as such. But in the beginning there was opposition from some Muslim
   parents. They were of the opinion that this is a Christian school run by Christian Father’s
   who were planning religious conversions. The animators are also Christians, Muslims and
   Hindus. Pause for translation into English. Interviewer: So when the children come from
   different communities they feel comfortable to interact with them. Pause for translation
   into Tamil.

12. One last question and this is a question we are asking lots of different people we are working
    with around the world, who are doing theatre work in places of conflict.
   Pause for translation into Tamil.
   It’s a question really about a quotation by an American theatre scholar, which says ‘given the
   global contemporary situation where there is a lot of war and destruction’ what can an artist
   do to respond to this situation? What can theatre do? Pause for translation into Tamil.
   When you talk about artists, for example if you take a painter for instance, no matter what
   problem comes up he will not give up his painting. Through his field he will attempt to

                                                      Interview with G/ Butterfly Garden– Tape 3

   highlight the issues and try to convey good messages and discourage conflict. Pause for
   translation into English. . PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: he told a story
   which was created by 14-17 year old children. It’s a nice story. I’ll tell you that story
   later. Interviewer: OK. There is a sculpture of a dancing man with a barbed wire fence
   around him signifying war. The background is a broken down building. There are also
   coloured pigeons representing children. The message conveyed through this sculpture is
   that the man/artist will overcome the difficulties of war by working with children.
   Interviewer: Wow. Beautiful.

13. A clarification regarding the previous question. Did he say that the in a war situation theatre
    work should grow or did he say it has grown?
   Pause for translation into Tamil. It has grown. Pause for translation into English.

14. One more thing. In your brochure I read that you connect the inner and outer world in the
    Butterfly Garden. What do you mean by inner and outer world?
   Pause for translation into Tamil
   PART UNCLEAR. [Translation at interview: Man is preoccupied with making a living
   and doesn’t take any notice about his ‘breath’ because it comes without any effort. So
   everyone has to pause to think about this which constitutes one’s inner world. If we
   don’t think about this our lives would become meaningless. They always instruct the
   animators to talk to the children with their hearts not with their mouths. They call this
   dialogue heart to heart. Sometimes children come and hit animators when they are busy
   with something else. The animators then respond with a hug. Also when the children go
   home they give the animators a leaf or a stone and ask them to keep it until they return.
   If they throw it away when the children return and ask for it they will be upset. So in
   his (interviewee) table he has a lot of stones and leaves and after about a week the
   children come and ask for it].

   Interviewer: Thank you so much. It has been so interesting to speak to you, really. It’s a
   lovely note to end with. Thanks.