“Do not be ashamed of your own body. Do not be shy because of your body, no matter what shape it is,” the man says, stripping off his shirt as the audience watches, rapt.
The man on stage, a painter with schizophrenia, is one of the characters in DUMB, a psychological drama performed at ƏSA (“walking stick” in Azerbaijani), the first theater in Azerbaijan dedicated to bringing together actors with and without disabilities.
As in many places, people with disabilities in Azerbaijan face stereotypes and prejudices portraying them as dependent, incompetent and unhappy. ƏSA’s founder, Nihad Gulamzade, said he founded the theater – the first of its kind in the Caucasus – to fight those misperceptions.
“This is not a social project, it’s not a hobby, we are working professionally,” Gulamzade told EurasiaNet.org.
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Durna Safarova is a freelance journalist who covers Azerbaijan.