The Move Project, a collaboration between the Institute for Aesthletics, contemporary dancer Birgitt Bodingbauer, and the Munich Refugee Council, worked with unaccompanied minors and family members located at the Bayernkaserne detention center in Munich Germany on a five-week long physical play project. The Bayernekaserne center is one of the most notorious refugee detention centers in Germany. On the site of an old army barracks, the center is a make-shift, fenced-in complex that house a vastly fluctuating number of detainees. In the spring of 2013 it swelled to unbearable numbers, prompting a hunger strike by teenage residents in protest of their living conditions.
We arrived to a more hospitable, yet still unfavorable living environment, and quickly set to work recruiting participants, which was not hard given the lack of activities for detainees. We started out playing a number of "new" games, i.e. not soccer,- basketball, frisbee golf, American football, and handball. During the second session, we had enough players to set up an ultimate frisbee game; soon after someone stepped on the frisbee and shattered it. As I went to get another, a Somali kid threw an American football into the mix and we had invented our first game: ultimate frisbee with a football! The game was an instant success, and as we played more, a community started to develop. Every day people wanted to play this new game, soon called Malaka (after the word every one of these refugees learns after migrating through Greece ), and it started to flesh out into a sport. People got better; teams developed strategies, less collisions occured and more points were scored. More importantly, when we played, the oppressive environs of the camp, the separation of ethnicities, the uncertainty of each detainee's future, temporarily vanished. Moods raised, people intermingled, and we started to have meaningful conversations in the midst of this playful atmosphere. Playing these games created a level playing field where people were participating only because of their desire to play. As such, they interacted with each other arbitrarily yet naturally, without hierarchy nor motive. It is in these situations where social engagement flourishes.