Partner forum in Tunisia. Photo by Constanze Flamme
Partner forum in Tunisia. Photo by Constanze Flamme

Let’s Tandem, Let’s Cooperate!

"Sometimes dealing with the concept of international cooperation seems hard and difficult to understand", says Tandem Shaml participant Silvia Giordano, "a parallel dimension compared to our routine and surrounding world". Read more about Silvia's experience and how she rediscovered the necessity of international collaborations.

There are lots of associations, co-operatives, private entities who, among their ordinary activities, are willing to promote an open-minded culture and a positive attitude towards different cultural and geographical realities. Sometimes they are closer to us than expected.

That is why I shared this story with a friend of mine: a few years ago, we studied international cooperation together at University, then we both began to work in the field. I worked for a while in an NGO, whereas she’s still employed in a refugee shelter. For three years, I have been in charge as an international relations coordinator in a Theatre for Young Audiences company in Bergamo, Teatro Prova. And I re-discovered the value of international cooperation.

As an international coordinator for a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) company, I’ve been part of the first step of the Tandem experience, which enabled me to get to know many different people from Europe and the Arab World engaged in culture.

Tandem describes itself as follows:

Tandem believes that the recent cultural and social questions can be addressed through inspiring learning experiences when working with new organisations and across new localities.

To me, this can be translated in the huge and invaluable opportunity to open up everybody’s worldview about cultural distances and the painful clashes surrounding our lives. I would totally recommend this experience to all my colleagues for their professional and human growth: the excellent organisation in leading the activities, the enthusiasm and the climate of friendliness I could perceive in the overall stay and the inspiring stories behind the partners’ organisations were only a few aspects worth living in the first step. The programme was intense but conducted with unique awareness and rare delicacy. Needless to say, this was one of the most inspiring elements.

Partner forum in Tunisia. Photo by Constanze Flamme
Partner forum in Tunisia. Photo by Constanze Flamme

The anecdote I would like to share is about my very first day in Hammamet, when I reached the residence where the 30 cultural managers were supposed to meet for the first time. On the 19th of June, on a quite warm day I got to Tunisia by plane in order to start the “Partner Forum”, the first step of the Tandem project.

Upon my arrival, an ice-breaking activity was organised in the garden.
Before getting into the games, I had already shaken hands with young women and men from Oman, Bosnia, the UK, Ukraine and Greece. The managers had arrived, the team was ready to start. One of the games consisted in sharing a hidden thing which was part of our personal experiences, something the others would not know – at least, at first glance. My paper was a memory from my childhood, something popping up in my mind just before I wrote it. Other colleagues shared curious and unique details of theirs in the same activity, we enjoyed guessing whose papers were being held in our hands and hop! In a moment, our faces and names got more familiar.

The Partner Forum was a precious meeting, an opportunity to get in touch with cultural managers working in different fields – ranging from music to theatre, dance to visual arts, language teaching to digital expression, urban development to cinema. More than that, it represents a meaningful opportunity for my personal growth as a European citizen and a cultural manager for a company dealing with the new generations. I often borrow a quotation by S. Tauscher:

That translates the feeling I have whenever adults become too shy or too fearful toward their childhood dreams, begin to build barriers preventing them from getting into a dialogue, communicating, expressing themselves as human beings (and citizens). Tandem brought me back to this kind of reflection, inspiring me, shedding some new light on my job experience through a constructive approach towards narrow-minded “wall-builders” and enlarging my worldviews.

And now, what comes next?

After the five days spent in Tunisia, I finally found “my Tandem”. Her name is Nada, she’s from Alexandria, Egypt and she represents Hewar Company. Hewar Company for Independent Theatre and Performing Arts aims to create contemporary political and socio-political productions, reinforcing the position of independent theatre in the Arab region and asserting the necessity of theatre as an interactive entity capable of initiating change, breaking taboos, and providing societies with a much-needed reflection.

Silvia & Nada
Silvia & Nada

Together, we are going to initiate a theatre project on the topic of barriers and walls, entitled Staging Walls. Through the opportunities given by Tandem, we’d like to mix up languages and cultures, stereotypes and targets to see what happens when we confront with the issue of migration through performance and experimental theatre. After the first meeting in Sweden in October, Teatro Prova can’t wait to head to Alexandria for the first placement. Then other placements and meetings will be there. Looking forward to this marvellous and challenging experience!