The Art of Coming Together:

In Touch with Dessa Quesada-Palm - Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute

This month, SEAN-CSO is in touch with Dessa-Quesada Palm, artistic director of the Youth Advocate Through Theatre Arts (YATTA) and also part of faculty courses related to arts and peacebuilding at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) based in the Philippines. For 40 years, she has been experienced in art performances such as dance and drama theatre. “For me, (creative content is) anything that comes from you, from what you feel, what you think, and express in ways that use a certain level of art,” she stated.

She believes that the creative process of art could help channel young people’s energy to be productive and not harmful to others. “Somehow, I always returned to drama theatre. I think for me, that is bound with my spirit. I can’t live without doing this; it is a give if people find it. So I feel the challenge now is finding how many spaces there are for young people trying to figure out through peaceful means,” said Dessa.

From the academic perspective, literature on creative content for PCVE is still a work in progress. Dessa and her friends from Japan and Kenya put several courses (before it was face-to-face, now it is online) and co-work articles now part of Routledge’s book called “Theatre in Peacebuilding,” she stated.”

In the context of Southeast Asia, the content and platform variation should match its communities’ characteristics. “We need to use all media. Each medium or genre touches us differently as a person,” she added. She then recalls the stories of an interfaith workshop between Muslims and Christian students, some of which evacuated from a city under siege by extremist elements of ISIS. The beautiful part that touched her the most was when they were able to tell stories of home left on their phones to later portray and share important values.

In a closing statement, she said the importance of fun and passion in PCVE efforts “Well, peacebuilding is a process, which goes just like having fun on the one hand. Because the more fun you have then, the less aggressive you have. Arts can capture that range of emotion and feeling.”