Bibu Festival and ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2022 asks us to “Leave No One Behind”

Published on 17 May 2022

“Bibu Festival and ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2022 asks us to “Leave No One Behind,” boasted Sue Giles, President of ASSITEJ, as she took to stage at this year’s opening ceremony set within the main venue of Helsingborg Konserthaus.

Referring to the festival’s tag line, Giles held an emotional opening speech, filled with consideration for the times we’re living in and the indisputable impact the pandemic and our social, climate, political, environmental and creative situation has had on all of us.

“’Leave No One Behind’ is an aspiration that holds the principles of inclusion and equity at its heart,” said Giles. “It’s been a really long road to get here, long not just because of time but because of the complexity of the times that we’re in; how wonderful and incredibly moving to be here, to see you all, to feel the atmosphere that doesn’t get past a screen, in more dimensions than we have been used to for a very long time. This occasion is almost unbelievable,” she added.

A series of short performances took place at the ceremony, with introduction speeches from key local cultural figures and a warm-hearted response to performances by the audience who nodded their heads and clapped to the rhythms of dance and music. There was indeed a vibrant feeling of celebration, perhaps merely because of the fact that we found ourselves present in the moment. As Giles adequately described it: “This occasion is almost unbelievable… this is a glorious week ahead of us, full of interest, wonder and joy, big talks, fun times, a real celebration of what we care about, what we care to maintain and pour our heart into: theatre and performance for a young audience.”

Minister of Culture of Sweden, Jeanette Gustafsdotter cute the ribbon with the help of children and young people at the festival’s opening ceremony

Yet the importance of meeting again was highlighted beyond merely being able to physically connect. “This week comes on the heels of a very hard time and in a world where along with climate change, the climate has changed for us… we’re not only taking stock after a global pandemic but we’re dealing with the impact of war, conflict, the increase in refugee populations, the reduction of support for art, culture and education everywhere,” urged Giles.

“As an Executive committee, we discuss what we can do for our members in times of hardship and duress, when economies and bureaucracies don’t allow for mobility, when access to participation for many is curtailed, the impact on children and young people everywhere is significant and long reaching, we all work, in all our ways, to interpret and to provide escape and catharsis, to make moments of beauty, fun and wonder and to give foundations for continued hope. This is why our practice is so important, to be here together, sharing, supporting, listening and talking, seeing works. Connections is not only pleasure but has great purpose,” she added.

“This week comes on the heals of a very hard time and in a world where along with climate change, the climate has changed for us…”

Sue Giles, President of ASSITEJ

Giles thanked the efforts and hard work that has been put into materialising this year’s festival, including the ASSITEJ team as a whole, the National Arts Festival of South Africa which is facilitating the online side of festival, the city of Helsingborg, Bibu Festival itself, but more poignantly perhaps, the international selection committee, a global group of indigenous practitioners who have given their time and experience to the programming “so that we can experience what we often forget: the present creativity in all its forms that comes from a deep place of beginning. With this in mind, we confront our changed climate, our social, political, environmental and creative situation by questioning, finding solutions together, listening to young people and hearing what the first peoples of the world have to say about care and connection.”

Melissa Hekkers is a freelance journalist and author.
Her most recent book, Amir’s Blue Elephant, is a creative non-fiction based on her experiences working with refugees, in Lesvos, Greece. In 2018, she launched My Cyprus Mandala, an interactive educational book series on the natural and cultural heritage of Cyprus. In 2007, she published her first children’s book ‘Crocodile’, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. Her second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (2012) was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. Her third children’s book ‘Pupa’ (2014) was adapted as a theatre play in 2019.