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CGHR Practitioner Series: Working in Human Rights, Peacebuilding, Humanitarian Aid and Development

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Gabriela Martinez.

For those seeking to advocate and champion respect for human rights and good governance, a variety of means and instruments are available. Alongside political engagement, inter-governmental and non-governmental work, art and drama also feature as important intellectual resources upon which activists and practitioners may draw.

Using a performance of Wole Soyinka’s ‘Jero’s Metamorphosis’ as an entry point, the objective of this session is to address some of the themes referred to above. In the context of CGHR ’s Practitioner Series, the discussion following the performance of the play will centre on Wole Soyinka as a socio-political activist, and the larger prospects of using drama and art as part of an enlarged repertoire of platforms for championing the advocacy of human rights and governance.

The showcase of the Soyinka play is a result of a parallel project at Goldsmith’s College, London: ‘Dialogical Mediation: Intellectual intervention within theatrical and aesthetic conceptualisation’. This project sees directors and actors engage in conversation with a non-thespian discussant with regards to the political and social conditions of Soyinka’s craft, and the larger ethos that encompasses Soyinka’s oeuvre.

Discussant: Tim Cribb

Chair: Dr Ruth Watson

About the play:

The Jero Plays by Wole Soyinka consist of two short plays re-released as a collection in 1973. The Trials of Brother Jero first came out in 1964, while Jero’s Metamorphosis was published two years later in 1966. Both plays satirize Christianity and religious hypocrisy, particularly, the unquestioning devotion that many converts display towards their spiritual leaders, often exposing themselves to manipulation in the process.

As the title suggests, The Trials of Brother Jero is about a charlatan preacher, Brother Jero. Brother Jero is a cunning beach diviner who woos customers (penitents) to his church by using Christian superstition for his own salvation. For him, the church is a business. He says:

‘I am glad I got here before any customers-I mean worshipers..  l always get a feeling every morning that am a shopkeeper waiting for customers.’

Brother Jero is suave while his followers are gullible. He lures people to his church by promising them material gains and promotions through prayer.

The second play, Jero’s Metamorphosis, is also set in Nigeria. Here, Brother Jero is cast as one of the many beach prophets operating in the region. The play opens with Brother Jero instructing Rebecca his secretary to write invitation letters to other prophets. He has managed to access a confidential file that reveals plans to transform the beach, now used as a place for worship, into a public prosecution ground.

With the meeting, the cunning Jero plans on using the file and its contents to unite all the prophets so they form one church with him as the leader. On the day of the meeting, Jero delays making an appearance. Meanwhile, he opportunistically instructs Rebecca to give the prophets a lot of alcohol.

When Jero eventually arrives, the preachers are asked to choose who will be the head of the church. Influenced by the alchohol they’ve been having, they cast their votes in favor of Brother Jero over his rival Shadrack. The latter had been seen as the probable head. Unlike his colleagues, many of whom are ex-convicts, Shadrack is a real preacher. Source: https://www.africabookclub.com/?p=2360

About the Lent 2014 series:

The sphere of work known variously as the ‘Third Sector’, ‘Development and Humanitarian Aid’ or simply – doing good in tough places – is notoriously impenetrable, and frustratingly difficult to navigate for the uninitiated. For somebody hoping to pursue a career within this field, the range of agencies and institutions, initiatives and centres is at the very least bewildering. Most areas intersect, and organisations work with an array of crosscutting issues and contexts. Yet what at first glance can appear to be a morass of very similar organisations doing generally related things, is in fact often sharply delineated, with different sectors requiring surprisingly different competencies and operating under quite specific mandates. Working as an international human rights advocate would demand a different skill set and working environment from a project officer of a first phase emergency response – and both would have different routes to entry. Furthermore, a Master’s degree isn’t always the best option. Cambridge University educates and trains many of the best young minds in the country and provides a critical insight into the issues surrounding international politics, security, development and humanitarianism. But with little clarity around what is involved in working in this sector, attempting to translate this theoretical knowledge into a meaningful start to a career can be a minefield.

With this in mind, the CGHR series will allow students to listen and speak to a selection of high-level experts working in these fields, and address key issues and questions. There will be four seminars throughout Lent 2014, designed to equip students with an in-depth and critical look at what each area involves; the type of work carried out, contingent challenges and essential competencies. The first hour will introduce the speaker, chaired by a discussant from CGHR , and will open up to the audience in the second portion of the evening to provide the opportunity for students to engage with the topics discussed. The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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