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  • Infinite IncompletenessA Documentary Theatre Play
  • The Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO)

Infinite Incompleteness was developed by the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) in response to the deeply entrenched culture of impunity in Afghanistan. After more than three decades of violent conflict with millions of victims, accountability for massive human rights abuses remains elusive while the voices and stories of the victims continue to be silenced, and therefore unacknowledged. In fact, merely discussing “Transitional Justice (TJ)” in Afghanistan is largely taboo and those who dare to do so are often subject to abuse, harassment and, in some instances, death.

Interestingly, different forms of community-based theatre have been among the most auspicious ways of breaking the silence about issues concerning past and present human rights violations in this country. Since early 2008, various members of what eventually became AHRDO have been the driving force behind a series of victims-centered theatre endeavors that included a tour of twelve provinces of Afghanistan with a TJ play from Northern Ireland, AH6905 by Dave Duggan, a number of Theatre of the Oppressed initiatives, as well as the use of Playback Theatre as a means of documenting peoples’ personal stories and experiences of loss and war. What all these projects had in common was the objective to use the theatre to create spaces for the victims of Afghanistan to come together and analyze the past, in the context of the present in order to initiate a search for grassroots strategies for dealing with the truth of the past, and to become active protagonists in the shaping of a more peaceful and just Afghanistan in the future.

Infinite Incompleteness follows in the footsteps of these valiant efforts. For the development of the script, Playback Theatre was used to invite Afghan victims from different parts of the country to share their experiences of war. Over the course of twenty performances, approximately 120 stories were told and a total of ten stories were carefully selected, linguistically edited and arranged in a basic storyline that takes into consideration Afghanistan’s ethnic and linguistic diversity (the three main national languages are spoken by the characters during the performance), the different conflicts starting from 1978 up to the present, as well as the promotion of both male and female voices. These real accounts were complemented by a parallel storyline consisting of a series of fictional actions and events carried out by the [End Page 94] characters in order to create a final narrative that is set in the past, present, and ultimately, future of the country. Furthermore, contemporary Afghan and Iranian poetry as well as music were incorporated into the play in an effort to promote the strongest possible atmosphere and resonance for the original target audience, the systematically marginalized victims of war in Afghanistan.

With regard to the set and other theatre elements such as lighting and sound, Infinite Incompleteness was designed to serve the current Afghan realities, i.e. the fact that there are very few appropriate theatre spaces and that the most basic infrastructure (such as electricity) is still painfully missing in most parts of the country. Hence, there is no lighting, no score, very few recorded sound effects, and a set, though rich in details, that consists of objects easily and cheaply available anywhere in the country. In addition, there are the characters’ costumes, with the three men dressed in the traditional Afghan Shalwar Kameez (in the three national colors red, green, and black) and the actress wearing a dress reminiscent of Hazara culture.

Infinite Incompleteness premiered on Human Rights Day 2010 at the Lycée Estiqlal in Kabul. It has since been performed for large audiences in various parts of Afghanistan. The play was also shown at the American University in Washington D.C. and at the Helen Mills Theater in New York City, in November 2011. The play was written by AHRDO in Kabul, Afghanistan in the early winter of 2010. Edited in November 2011, June 2012, April and June 2013.

Summary of the Play

Infinite Incompleteness tells the stories of ten Afghan women and men who have lost members of their families as a result of the various conflicts...


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pp. 94-112
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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