A foreigner is only foreign in a foreign land

by Giora Seeliger

AUSTRIA – 20 June 2016

The impressions that theatre leaves us are often elusive and long-lasting. Ephemeral is an expression that is often used in the art of acting. Artists, like myself, as well as the audience, are aware of this volatility; this fleeting moment in time where dreams are made.

Before participating in the first RED NOSES mission to a refugee camp during the Kosovo war in the 1990s, I was skeptical and nervous at the same. After having seen the horrific events unfold on national television, I questioned whether our presence was needed or not. Were clowns really necessary in this situation? I certainly thought that we were the last thing that these people needed.

However, after our mission, my perception changed dramatically. The ephemeral connection of our smile created connections that I could not deny. A simple smile had more of an impact than I thought it would. We could see in the expression on their faces. For the refugees, this was more than just a moment – it was existential.

It was not only the children who felt this; so many parents and grandparents shared the happiness of the children and were able to share in this special moment.

The actor and comedian Karl Valentin once said, “a foreigner is only foreign in a foreign land.” A smile creates a sense of home. This simple message is the bedrock of all our international work: in Jordan, Greece and in Ukraine.

Helplessness and disunity are common explanations for the root causes of a refugee crisis. These same themes dictate the debate about the future, about equality and about our responsibility towards one another.

Considering the dimension of these questions, I strongly believe that the clowns are taking small, yet important steps. As always, our steps when performing our humorous missions have to be cautious. When it works, for brief and magic moment, the clowns and the refugees become one. The bleakness of reality is forgotten and positive emotions are discovered.

Looking at it in this way, a healthy dose of humour and self-reflection are the best remedies to escape the inexplicably complex labyrinth of hidden emotions. This promotes a renewed sense of purpose, giving way to these individuals to have a positive outlook for the future ahead.

 

 

About the person:
Giora Seeliger is the co-founder of ten RED NOSES organizations in Europe and the Middle East. He is also a film director and an actor.
 

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