Art, migration, adaptation for trainers


The workshop described bellow is the process that took place in Budapest, between the 25th and 29th August 2014, slightly improved with suggestions of the participants and the trainers after the workshop.  Big big thanks once more for all participants who made this possible.

Module 1: kick-off

Roughly the first 2-3 hours are devoted to getting to know each-other, talking about the expectations of the course and establishing a common contract making the safety rules and collaboration rules explicit.

There are a variety of options for all three objectives, we consider all of them equally important.

To read about sample activities click here.

Module 2: the migration path  IMG_0088

While some participants have deep and personal knowledge about the migration and transition experience, we use this exercise to introduce common vocabulary to talk about the processes of adaptation. For those who do not have own experience of migration, this is a powerful exercise to “put themselves in the migrant’s shoes” which is not really possible, but almost.  The activity is based on interviews with migrants, that has to be drawn as a map of the journey, then narrated in first person singular. A debriefing follows with the main concepts of intercultural adaptation.

Full description of the activity here.


   Module 3: what is culture?done during the 2012 january ariadne workshop

Discussions about culture can be very detached and theoretical. A way to pin them down in our reality and   bring them close to us is to start the work with objects. This series of exercises starts with asking participants (before ariving) to bring with them an object that represents their relationship to their culture.  For us the word “relationship” is important, it helps to avoid handling typical national symbols, and opens the space for personal reflection.  Starting from the presentation of the objects we move into drawing a metaphor of culture in general, then back to our object by inviting participants to create an art work around the object they brought.

Full description of the activity here.

(done during the 2012 january ariadne workshop in Paris)


Module 4: identity landscapesIMG_0101

Identity inevitably changes during the processes of adaptation, intuitively we all feel this is “normal”. But we often underestimate the intensity and the extent of the changes. Indeed, this is not just about national identity  – as if “before I was American now I am French” –  and even this, in a first stage is rather the other way around: “being in Paris I became more American”.  Instead all levels of the identity can change: the way we are man / woman (gender identity), the way we look at our age, the way we experience and live our professional identity, the way we are a joker, an eloquent person (or not) and even the way we are mother / wife / daughter etc.  The identity landscape exercise was developed by Rafael Valeron for élan interculturel to be an entry point for discussions about identity and identity change. It is an exercise based on blind portraits drawn about ourselves and the others.

Full description of the exercise here.


Module 5: the body and first contact

Dance is a very good  tool for simulating “first contact”: it  can put us easily out of our comfort zone, then back again, for many it is a real negotiation between in and out of safety, just like a real encounter. The series of propositions we give are an occasion to chat about these experiences.

a) Becoming aware of the personal and cultural diversity of non verbal repertoires, and at the same time becoming aware of preferences (do I like to be touched or not, how close do I feel comfortable to stand to others, do I like eye-contact or not etc.)

b) Gaining some flexibility , becoming “demechanised” and hence prepared to receive and adapt to new non-verbal repertoires.

c) Realizing, that it is OK to step a little outside of our comfort zone, that we do not need to over-protect ourselves.  Most participants go through this observation when practicing contact dance for the first time, and observe that they allow themselves to make movements they did not think was possible before, and that it is still OK.

Module 6: art and intercultural competences

This sessions was created by Christina Zoniou (Osmosis Intercultural) to give the concept of “intercultural competence” a concrete experience through art.  The series starts with an invitation of participants to draw down their life map, marking the turning points. Participants are then invited to create groups of 3-4 people, and share with each other these life maps, look for common points and note down these key words. In the next section of the exercise, each group is invited to create a choreography of these common points, which is presented to the group. The exercise closes with a debriefing of the emotions, attitudes, behaviors experiences during the series and their connection with intercultural competences.









Full description of the exercise here.

Module 7:  convention of critical incidents

This section is dedicated to exploring experiences of “critical incidents” or “culture shock” with the tools of theatre.  We use the definition of culture shock phrased by Margalit Cohen-Emerique, in which culture shock is a concrete experience that you can pin down in space and time, of which you are the protagonist and you are in an interaction which somehow questions important cultural values, practices norms that you hold.  The session starts with discussing this definition of “critical incident”, then inviting all participants to write down such an experience. Again, groups of 4 are created who share these experiences, and select one which they put on stage. The presentation is handled with the tools of Forum Theater (Boal) with one significant difference: here it is interesting and explore also the “rationality” of the “oppressor”.

Module 8: field work

Engaging with the outside environment, finding “entry points” that can serve as connection between us and what is out there is not always easy. Well, sometimes it is: tango dancers often find the local Milonga, members of religious community join along the religion and so on. But sometimes there is no such evident easy-access opportunity.  Different types of “entry point” exercises can be invented.  Being a trainers’ training our task is one level higher: invite trainers to realize how the city or the surrounding environment can become a resource in their programs. Some spaces are evident (museums..) but any part of the city can become a learning terrain. In this trainer’s training exercise groups are created along common interest (e.g. wishing to create a task with local and migrant women) and then a place is given as a constraint: that they should invent an activity in a particular place in the city or a type of place  (a park, a monument etc.)








Closing and evaluation

We feel it is important to close a training programme both emotionally and then cognitively.  Many exercises have been proposed for both types. For an “emotional closing” we like the adaptation of the “journey” exercise of Boal’s Games for Actors and Non Actors. This is a blind game where one partner closes her/his eyes and the other makes her/him experience his/her own journey through movement, touch and sounds. The “map of workshop” exercise can nicely integrate emotional and cognitive aspects. Here participants are invited to draw down their own experience of the 5 days as a map, then present it to the group.

Day 5- map of workshop

Day 5 - map of workshop

Day 5 - map of workshop


  1. Mylène

    5 September 2014


    Thank you Vera!
    Here i send you some links/search I have done during the training… some in English but most in French. I did not really read them until now, so no guaranty about the contents (specially for wikipedia links).

    Enjoy your days ! Warm hug
    miss u,

    ARIADNE – Art, adaptation, migration
    Budapest 25-29 Août 2014

    Liens internet :

    – Articles ACCULTURATION ET IDENTITÉ, John William Berry :

    – Acculturation psychologique :

    – Théorie de la gestion de la peur :éorie_de_la_gestion_de_la_peur

    – Michael Tomasello / aux origines de la cognition humaine:

    – Hubert Hermans / Dialogical self theory :

    – RIA » Réseau d’Intervenants Artistiques, une cellule des Ateliers d’Art Contemporain :

    – Paracommand’art:

    – Activities for Facilitating Introductions / Icebreakers :

    – Human Libary :

  2. Vera

    10 September 2014

    Very many thanks to Mylène for all the links! Thank you thank you!

  3. Juan Esteban

    15 September 2014

    What a wonderful experience!!! When are you doing something like this again!!!???

    I’m really curious about the migration path exercice! I would love to experience it myself before using it. I believe that it could be a very good experience specially for people who are not really aware about the path that they’ve done to get to wherever they are.

    I’m actually thinking about my own experience as a migrant in France. I came all over from Argentina, and now that I work with migrants, I think that it is important to be aware of what I went through to reach the point in which I am today.

    I think that it is an excellent exercice!!!

    Thank you for this think tank!


  4. Maria

    5 December 2014

    Very educational and inspiring learning path!

    This is one of the great examples of how cultural and artistic activities can play an essential role in training and education. It is an example of how art can create a room for breaking down barriers and discovering new things about ourselves, others and the world we live in. The exercises stimulates our ways of thinking and encourages us to step back and reflect on who we are, where we are and where we are going – thoughts and reflections that can be difficult to find in a busy modern life. Finally, the exercises are brilliant in terms of understanding the mindset and experiences of people coming from another reality than our own – here it is migrants, but it could as well be people with disadvantages, special needs or just people who somehow differs from the so-called norm.

    The learning path is structured with an introduction, 8 modules and a closing and evaluation part. We are taken on a journey through discovering the experience of being a migrant, exploring our relationship with the culture we live in, finding our personal identity, dancing out of our comfort zone, drawing our life map and engaging with our surroundings. All in all the course has a very good structure with suitable exercises that focus on establishing a dynamic and experimenting atmosphere for the participants. The facilitator or trainer can use the course as a step-by-step guide with a clear description on objectives, practical information on time requirement and number of participants, procedure of the exercise, etc.

    For my part, this learning path is also very inspiring in the field of special needs where I work. I particular like the way the participants are encouraged to put themselves into the migrant’s shoes. It is a very personal and empathetic way of learning.

    Thank you for this great experience,

Add a comment

You must be logged in to comment.