3rd Conference in Bethlehem 2013

Welcoming Speech for the 3rd Conference

by Klaus Hoffmann

President Reverend Raheb, Ladies and Gentleman, Colleagues and Friends,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here to the opening of our 3rd Conference on “Palestinian-German Dialogue on Theatre and Theatre Education/Theatre pedagogy”. I must begin by giving my thanks to the German Academic Exchange Service and the Goethe Institute in Ramallah for funding the dialogue we’ll be having here.

I also thank  the co-organisers of the conference, the Dar AlKalima College, which organized the conference again in this famous town of Bethlehem and it is very important that various representatives of the Ministries for Culture and Education in Palestine, and of course all the important theatres in Palestine are taking part:  

The Al-Harah Theatre from Beit Jala

The Ashtar Theatre from Ramallah

The Freedom Theatre from Jenin

The Hakawati Theatre, Nationaltheater, Jerusalem

The Inad Theatre from Beit Jala

 The Yes Theatre from Hebron

I would like to give a warm welcome each and every one of you.

I’d also like to welcome the representative of the Istanbul State Theatre in Turkey, from the Turkish Association of Creative Drama.  

Our partners and co-organizers from the Institute for Theatre Education at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück-Lingen have also joined us on this trip, with five members of the teaching staff in attendance here. I would like to give a warm welcome to them and to the Commitee on Church and Theatre in the Evangelical Church in Germany, as well as various theatre educators from the Leibniz University of Hannover, the Protestant University of the Applied Arts in Berlin, the Hannover State Theatre, the Federal Association for Theatre Education in Cologne, the TUSCH Project for Theatre and School in Berlin. I’d also like to welcome the journalist from the German theatre magazine “Theater der Zeit” who is here as well as an Internet specialist for the web-side  Masrah-Theater.Net, for, as you know, we also want to open an internet portal for our dialogue. We would also like to welcome our additional participants from Palestine, theatre educators and teachers and young people for our workshops.  

As you can see, all the prerequisites are in place for a productive dialogue between Palestinians and Germans.

  The goals of the first conference here in Bethlehem in 2012, where our project was founded,  were:

-         To establish a long-term Palestinian-German dialogue between theatre producers and drama teachers, theatre educators and theatre studies scholars involving an exchange of ideas and experiences about theatre and theatre education as well as a discussion of artistic goals and the social effects of performing arts that extend beyond such goals. A particular focus here is on establishing an international exchange of ideas as to the role of theatre in personal development and processes of social change and exploring the question of how uneducated and marginal groups can best be reached. What role can theatre play in terms of quality of life and the art of coexistence and how can it contribute towards creating spaces for the development of creative abilities regarding public and political articulation and social participation?


We want to continue this collaboration here and have this time chosen the following subject as our focus:

                          Professional Fields of Theatre Education and Theatres and Schools


Over the last three decades, Theatre Education has developed considerably in Germany, its effects no longer just being felt in cultural artistic institutions, but also in social and educational institutions and even in private companies and the health care profession. Theatrical means are being used in many different areas of practice. At our conference, we would like to take a closer look at these different areas of practice, discussing in particular the relationship between theatre and school whilst also examining the effects of Theatre Education.

“Cultural Education must be understood as the basis of a balanced cognitive, emotional, aesthetic and social development of children and adolescents.” (UNESCO) Cultural education is assigned a key role in the development of young people. “Through cultural education basic abilities and skills are acquired. This is of central importance for the personal development of young people, the emotional stability and forging identity.”( German Parliament, 2007)

The importance of cultural education for the acquisition of knowledge, for the personal development, creativity and sustainability is still underestimated and also the key role of arts in social transformations.(Merkur Fond) It should be recognized that creativity is the vital ingredient that needs to be cultivated if we are all to survive and flourish in the 21st century. And one of the best ways to nurture creativity is through arts education, something which should be available to every child. That means that we need to draw special attention to the development of the offers for children and adolescents that means also Children Theatres, Theatre and School, Theatre pedagogy. This theatre can also be a seismograph or a pioneer for social developments. Therefor we must anchor theatre along with music and fine arts more firmly in our educational systems.   


At the Unesco World Conference on Art Education in Seoul 2010 was a discussion with representatives from regions in which either officially ruled war and postwar conditions, or where the state do not or cannot perceive its regulatory function: There has been dealing with the arts as therapy, as means of gradual rediscovery of human feeling and action. They described the arts (in the broad sense) in its important function for survival. When talking of social context, then it is about the enabling of pure survival.

In a review of this conference, they say: “The arts are responsible for social issues and these range from health promotion through integration and inclusion, substainability and the economy of culture. The education and care to turn to the individual, creativity is being publicly called into question by no one ultimate goal of education. With a few exceptions, the intrinsic value of arts has been rarely discussed: the intrinsic value of arts or the role of reception and the production is obviously a very European issue. I think we will it discuss here, too.

Off course, we should beware of the claims of culture and the arts to overload, for freedom and peace, they will be unable to enforce. The arts are not always a good thing per se. It depends on the actors and their art and their actions in context. Art can also be used for breeding hatred, violence, glorifying and demonizing foreign, can promote hostile myths, building fronts and justify injustice.

When arts are misused, we must use the arts, nevertheless, because they open up spaces, in which developed new perspectives and alternative points of view and identifies ways to act. It offers arts spaces where people meet, are encouraged to think and find effective forms of expressions , thus also in penetrating the public sphere. Art can raise awareness of injustice and violence, suffering and oppression and can post problems and conflicts in society. Theatre can just break insulation and can act with the dialogical  forms of human communication.

In our conference we will have various examples of art education, theatre pedagogy, and special description of their power. I will encourage us in our work and give us more knowledge and experiences.

UNESCO, where Palestine is now also a member – finally -, it has been an active supporter of arts education since its inception and most particular in the last years with two World conferences about art Education, and it also called for a third World conference. But now all of this progress is currently in jeopardy as a result of projected cuts in UNESCO´s budget. After our conference here about Theatre-Pedagogy and Theatre and Schools, the General Conference of UNESCO meets in Paris in this November. And discuss the priority rankings of its programmes. Creativity and Arts Education are at risk of elimination. That would be a terrible step backwards in our efforts to promote the benefits of arts education within our individual countries and internationally. An additional consequence will be to give our governments yet another excuse to de-prioritise Art Education and to deny both promotion of  and access to the arts for children and young people.

With our conference we can give reasons why Art Education is so urgently needed to generate solutions to the many challenges facing the world today and to promote cultural and even economic development.      Art Education is a human right for Children, but not only for them.

What can we do? The decisions in the General Conference of UNESCO will be taken by the Members states, therefore we have to contact our National Commissions of UNESCO in our countries to express our concern about the future of creativity and Art Education as a priority with UNESCO programming.

 In our conference here we can give reasons why Art Education is so urgently needed to generate solutions to the many challenges facing the world today and to promote cultural and social developments.

“We must request, in the strongest terms, that UNESCO keep Creativity and Arts Education as fundamental priority within its work. We have to vote to prioritize Creativity and Arts Education and keep it on every government agenda. We have to support the issue of Arts Education in the current critical situation. We must be part of a critical movement.”

I will write a petition and beg you, to sign it.

Thank you.