The Bloodline Project

The Bloodline Project represents a unique cross-cultural collaboration between the members of New Works/World Traditions Dance Theatre, faculty of the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown, Malian Minister of Culture, Ministry of Health and Education, the Madame Togo Orphanage performance ensemble, CAFO Association for the Betterment of Women and Children and numerous artists, scholars, and non-governmental organizations to bring a preventive healthcare and educational program focusing on malaria to Mali. This international team of artists, social activists, medical practitioners and non-governmental organizations proposes to use the power of dramatic performance and social engagement to increase the efficacy of preventive measures in the treatment of malaria and other associated diseases.

Malaria is the leading cause of the child mortality crisis in Africa. According to the Center for Disease Control, this preventable and treatable disease is still endemic in 106 nations, kills more than one million people per year, with 90 percent of those Sub-Saharan African children under the age of five. It has been calculated that a child dies every 30 seconds.

In Mali and most of Sub-Saharan Africa, malaria creates long reaching economic hardships on families and communities through the loss of work and income, the high cost of anti-malarial drugs and netting, extended hospitalizations, and from contributing to one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. After years of medical research and billions of dollars spent on developing a vaccine, none exist. Prevention and education are crucial elements in helping to end this cycle of disease, poverty, and death.

Why Theatre?

With Mali still having one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world (70%), popular music, national radio programs and local dramatic performances play a prominent role in educating rural communities. I have witnessed the effective use of theatrical performance to provide opportunities for open discussion on matters of local, national, and international news, negotiating civil and political disputes, organizing community based projects, and for teaching moral and spiritual lessons. These gatherings utilized interactive and participatory theatrical methods of call and response music, dance and satiric skits to display a particular point of view that supported egalitarian exchanges of ideas and solutions. One of the most effective tools used for education in Mali is folksong, proverb and theatrical performance. When inquiring about these edu-tainment gatherings, my Malian consultant and translator, Sekouba Camara, sited a high level of satisfaction with these performances due to their ability to create personal identity with each issue, give immediate feedback, and in their use of high levels of creativity in problem solving and community based decision making practices.

Project History

This project began with an invitation by the Malian Minister of Culture for the New Works/World Traditions Dance Theatre (New Works) to perform for the 2008 opening ceremonies of the Biennale Festival of Art and Culture in Kaye, Mali. In preparation for this important festival, New Works will refineBloodline, the artistic centerpiece for a comprehensive and on-going international humanitarian project, in collaboration with Malian artists, to raise awareness for preventive measures against malaria. Bloodline takes an in-depth look at malaria and at how our often self-destructive relationship to the environment, both in Maliand the United States, contributes to collective despair brought on by disease.

This important festival is scheduled to take place December 20-30th of 2008, and will offer New Works the opportunity to present Bloodline in front of many influential international aid agencies, government leaders, artists, artistic presenters, medical practitioners and grass-roots organizations.

This performance invitation is an incredible honor both for the company and the University. The opportunity to engage in this meaningful and highly-visible performance collaboration with renowned Malian artists and organizations directly connects to the Boldly Brown initiative, the University’s effort to raise its profile internationally. This project will clearly demonstrate Brown’s commitment to international connections and alliances; as such, members of New Works seek the support of the University in honoring this  international collaboration project and invitation.

Project Goals

1.  One of our goals is to build lasting and effective collaborations with existing National and International organizations already involved in the production and distribution of ITNs, or insecticide-treated netting both here in America and in Mali to build a network of assistance and communication between the various initiatives. (PHASE ONE, TWO, THREE and FOUR)

 (A partial list includes Nothing But Nets, Malaria No More, Roll Back Malaria, National Malaria Control Program in Mali, the Malian Ministry of Health and Education, NetMark, Save the Children, USAID, The Malaria Research and Training Centre at the University of Bamako, and “Ets Bee Sago”).

2.  To develop and perform culturally informed medical, educational programs and dramatic performances in collaboration with Malians as equal partners in all research, educational development, and performance that will be utilized in the distribution of the (ITNs) insecticide-treated nets. These programs will fill the gap that exists between distribution, education and community involvement. Recent studies and articles from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the New York Times, and Malaria web-news sites have noted the following:

Recent studies and media coverage indicate that the transport and distribution of (ITNs) insecticide- treated nets is gaining momentum around the world as one of the most effective means of reducing malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. While this may be true, it is also true that there remains a gap in sustainable educational programs and local involvement to accompany their distribution.

A situation analysis conducted in five Mali districts revealed that while there was an average of two nets per household, only 3% of the population actually used them at all or for their intended purpose.

One case study noted that shipments of nets were used as fishing and cleaning nets.

A barrier to the use of ITNs has been noted by research teams from the Malaria Research and Training Center as a lack of proper education in their distribution and from a lack of involvement by Malians in these educational programs.

Further studies reveal that those households who participated in an educational component used their nets more consistently and with greater effect over a period of one year.

This collaborative edu-tainment performance will include dramatic and satiric Bamana masquerade scenes that address the need for proper use of the nets. Original songs co-written and performed by Malian and American artists will accompany the actual distribution of the permethrin-treated nets. The danced portions of the performance will include a well-known children’s ensemble from the Madame Togo Orphanage as well as popular Malian performers and musical stars to utilize their powerful and persuasive voices in Mande society.

3. To build concurrent medical programming that accompanies all distribution and performance in local communities. Each performance will be accompanied by a consortium of American and Malian Medical and healthcare professionals to bring locally identified and needed medical supplies and services. (PHASE TWO and FOUR)

4. Create and perform a radio play and CD with original songs translated into Bambara and French to be presented on national radio station, JekaFo, and performed by Malian recording stars. (PHASE TWO and FOUR)

5. To document all aspects of development and implementation of our project and humanitarian work through a film and photojournalism project. The confluence and synergy of the artistic and medical pieces will be documented by Sharon Kivenko, a PhD student in Anthropology from Harvard University. We will use the film and research gathered to assist us in gaining foundation support, in all presentations, and for future research development. (ALL PHASES)

6. To create a non- profit organization and non-governmental organization with dual Malian and American registration to support all aspects of research, development and implementation in both countries.

Timeline and Content of Project Phases

    * Phase One: Spring and Summer of 2008. Research, Development and Fundraising
    * Phase Two: August 4-26th. Travel to Mali to engage in collaborative research and redevelopment of theBloodline Project with the international artistic and medical teams.
    * Phase Three: Fall of 2008. Return to USA to perform at conferences, tour and fundraise.
    * Phase Four: December 15th, 2008-January 3rd, 2009: Return to Mali to perform at the Biennale Festival, continue medical relief and netting distribution in association with Bloodline performances.

PHASE ONE: Spring and Summer of 2008
Phase One of the project is well underway with recent performances of Bloodline.  We recently performedBloodline at the Stuart Theatre for the Spring Festival of Dance and at RISD Auditorium. Bloodline addresses issues of malaria education, prevention, and treatment, as well as our relationship with the environment, and the interface of all of these factors.  Phase One raised the student’s awareness of this devastating disease and allowed us to create a powerful piece of theater that educated the audience as well. We will perform this piece as part of summer fundraising events to defray the cost of the travel and performance in Mali and to help to purchase netting, medicine and educational materials to support the medical humanitarian mission.
Phase One has been supported by the Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance and by the RISD Office of Student Affairs.

PHASE TWO:  Research-to-Performance International Collaboration, Medical Relief Work and Mosquito Netting Distribution. August 4th-26th, 2008
Phase Two includes traveling to Mali for three weeks, August 4th-26th of 2008:

   1. to conduct an international research to performance collaborative project with some of Mali’s finest artists and scholars, **Listed below
   2. to bring and distribute (ITNs) permethrin- treated nets as part of each performance,
   3. to assist and help facilitate Medical and Public Health Educational programs for directors of regional medical clinics, community centers, schools, art centers, and non-governmental organizations in the greater Bamako region, ***Listed below
   4. to travel to Dialakoroba, where one of our associates directs the Build a School Project with Save the Children to perform and distribute netting through their established network,
   5. to present our project for important members of the Ministry of Culture, CAFO Association, and Save the Children for critique and revision, and
   6. to document all aspects of this research-to-performance project for further analysis and development

PHASE THREE: Documentation, Performance, and Outreach
Upon return from Mali, New Works looks forward to sharing the new rendering of the piece with American audiences. It will be presented at the September 19-22, 2008 conference entitled Sustaining Social Entrepreneurship for Health, Environment, and Education. This event is sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies and the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. Bloodlinewill be the conference’s featured performance, and New Works will support the performance with a presentation of their documentary work being written and filmed by Ms. Bach-Coulibaly and Harvard University PhD candidate, Sharon Kivenko, from the Department of Anthropology. Other fall performance opportunities include the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, the Dragon’s Egg Festival in NYC, the Brown University Parents Weekend Concert, and numerous educational programs in the schools. This documentary will be the centerpiece for all educational presentations.

PHASE FOUR:  Biennale Festival Performance
Phase Four involves returning to Mali to perform Bloodline at the Biennale Festival of Art and Culture.

The actual dates of the festival are December 20-30th 2008. The New Works team will remain in Mali after their Biennale performance until January 3rd to continue touring Bloodline in community health centers, schools, and art centers in and around Bamako and in rural areas in association with Save the Children and other exogenous and indigenous NGO’s.

Several physicians and nurses from Brown and its affiliated hospitals who are experienced in international health and education will travel with us. The medical team will engage the local medical community by providing medical education targeting the prevention and treatment of malaria. The team will distribute permethrin- treated mosquito bed netting and WHO approved primary anti-malarials as well as printed medical education materials.