Asia Meets Asia – the Uniting Power of Performance
Asia Meets Asia (AMA) is a non-profit organization that promotes international exchange through the enduring power of theater, dance and performance arts. Founded by Japanese theater director Hiroshi Ohashi in 1997, AMA aims to show that in spite of historical differences and conflicts many factors unite the various peoples of Asia.
The organization produces artistic events across Asia. Every year they encourage performers from different cultural, racial, and religious backgrounds to use their art form as a way to overcome language barriers, raise awareness, and communicate their stories. To get a better sense of what this means in practice, let’s take a closer look at the main performance event staged by AMA in 2017.
One Thousand and One Nights
Archana Kumar is a dancer and choreographer from Bengaluru, India who has been working with the AMA since 2005. This year she assembled a group of actors and dancers to tour Asia and perform a collection of street acts inspired by the legendary folk-tale collection known as The Thousand and One Nights (or The Arabian Nights). The group presented a series of short stories that reflect difficult experiences in daily life around Asia. Presented in a largely figurative and surreal fashion, these stories addressed gender inequality, social issues and the hardship brought on by natural disasters.
Sharing and Processing Painful Life Stories Through Art
One of the performances produced this year focused on the challenging lives endured by Korean mothers – Omoni – who sell fish for a living. The show was performed by 12 artistes and staged in the well-known Jagalchi fish & seafood market of Busan, South Korea.
Another performance used visual theater techniques and powerful imagery to pay tribute to the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster in which more than 300 people – most of whom were high school students – lost their lives. When asked about the goal of this performance and the 2017 event in general, Kumar explained that “the overall intention was to touch upon recent issues and disasters that are still raw in public memory and in a way share their grief, as well as push people from their comfort zone and encourage them to think and articulate their thoughts.”
Over the last two decades, AMA events have brought a wide variety of themes and styles to many parts of Asia, including Japan, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The next tour is planned to visit three Indian cities in September 2018.