"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" – Nelson Mandela
Our education and research arm is primarily concerned with further education and academic research. This is led by our Co-Artistic Director, Dr Amy Bonsall.
While Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for all those long years on Robben Island, the prisoners adopted the principal 'each one teach one', meaning that everyone had an obligation to share their learning with at least one other.
In Mikuyu Prison in Malawi, the political prisoners taught the other prisoners how to read and write. This was very dangerous, and they risked severe punishment if they were discovered, but they believed it was worth the risk. In his memoir And Crocodiles Are Hungry At Night adapted for the stage in 2012 by Kate Stafford, Jack Mapanje describes how they taught an illiterate farmer to read and write so that he could write his own letters to his wife. The man is overjoyed when after many months of study he finally writes his own letter. "I am unchained, liberated, freed!" he shouts, "my wife won't believe it!".
Photo: Poet and ex-political prisoner Jack Mapanje
The link between education and freedom is strong. The phrase 'each one teach one' can be traced back to the days of slavery, where the principle spread literacy throughout slave communities, in spite of the wish of the slave-owners to keep their workforce ignorant, and therefore easier to control.
Each of these oppressed communities realised the importance of education and sharing of skills. We at Bilimankhwe have been inspired by these stories and have adopted the principle: in everything that we do there is an element of learning. We bring together artists from differing cultures to work together, learning from each other's culture and building our skills. We share language, traditions and various forms of artistic expression across the spectrum of the arts: music, dance, art and drama. African storytelling jostles with Shakespearean verse; exuberant folk dance combines with the controlled discipline of ballet; the rhythms and harmonies from across the globe weave through each other creating new forms of expression that resonate with our deepest cultural memories.
And so each one of us learns from another and passes our own skills and cultural heritage on. Each One Teach One.