Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘peace’

2018_10_11_56051_1539248927._large

Photo: AFP/Sebastien Rieussec
A dancing contest in Mali challenges entrants to excel in traditional dances not their own. Here is a contestant in the “Faso Don,” performing during the filming of the show in the Malian capital, Bamako.

In Mali, an African country still suffering from the effects of French colonialism, ethnic groups have often had trouble getting along, and extremists have moved into vulnerable areas. (See my blog post about a secret operation to save ancient manuscripts from the radicals’ destructive rampage.)

But better days are ahead, especially if more people act on their ideas to promote peace and coexistence.

Sebastien Rieussec wrote recently for Agence France-Presse [APF] about one such person.

“All 3,000 seats in the cavernous Palace of Culture in Bamako had been snapped up, and the mood was at fever pitch as the TV dance competition reached its climax. The three finalists took to the floor one by one, dancing alongside a celebrity — a format familiar to viewers of talent shows around the world.

“But here’s the difference: the three hopefuls each had to perform a traditional dance from a region of Mali that was not their own. …

“In the landlocked Sahel state of Mali, the show has been a raging success. And it has bred a desperately-needed sense of unity in a country burdened by jihadist violence and ethnic tensions.

“The competition is the brainchild of dancer and choreographer Sekou Keita. Just six years ago, he was wondering how he could reverse the decline of traditional dance in Mali, a country whose music is now achieving global fame.

” ‘Our dances are so varied, we have a number of ethnic groups — we’re very lucky to have such cultural wealth,’ he told AFP. … ‘But [dancers] don’t know the traditional dances of their own country.’

“From this came his idea for a program that explored ancient cultural roots and built bridges across ethnic divides — ‘Faso Don,’ or ‘Dances of the Country’ in the Bambara language.

“Over six weeks, TV audiences shared the fate of eight young men and women from different regions, who shared a house Big Brother-style in Bamako, the capital.

“Each week they performed before an audience and the TV cameras, their numbers progressively falling as a competitor was eliminated by a vote by the public and the jury. … The final took place last weekend before an audience exhilarated by the ground-breaking, cross-cultural performances.

“Dressed in traditional costumes, the finalists performed one dance from their region and one from another region, accompanied by Malian stars such as musician Bassekou Kouyate and singers Habib Koite and Oumou Sangare. …

“The winner was Rokia Diallo, a woman from the Fulani pastoral community in Sikasso, southern Mali. Dressed in a flowing gown and a veil, she interpreted the takamba, a sinuous, sensuous dance from the Songhai group in the far north of the country.

” ‘It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this,’ said hip-hop dancer Oumar Tamboura, who had come to support a relative who was also one of the finalists. ‘Until now, people weren’t interested in folk dance, tradition and costumes.’

“Faso Don has not just revived interest in generations-old regional dances in Mali. It has also reinforced mutual respect in a country whose reputation for hospitality is tragically being supplanted by one for violence.”

Read more of this hopeful initiative here. It’s another example of one solitary individual having an idea and making a big difference.

Read Full Post »

1074266_3_dancing_standard

Photos: Beit HaGefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center
People dance in the streets of the mostly Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas in Haifa, Israel, for the 25th Holiday of Holidays festival, which celebrates religious diversity.

Most days, I find news about Israel completely depressing. Then along comes a story about an annual three-religion celebration there, and I’m reminded that not everyone associated with the 70-year-old nation and its neighbors is keen on in endless war.

Dina Kraft writes at the Christian Science Monitor. “In the port city of Haifa, two young art curators, one Jewish and one a Palestinian citizen of Israel, are dealing with something decidedly less fraught [than the daily news]: They are planning the logistics of an art installation that will include 88 pounds of white pepper, za’atar, sumac, and ginger.

“The piece is an exploration of what notions of ‘home’ mean, a loaded concept in a land claimed by two peoples. It is planned as a centerpiece of a new art exhibition for the Holiday of Holidays, the only event of its kind in Israel and a rare celebration of religious and cultural diversity in the fractious Middle East. The festival honors Christmas, Hanukkah, and Muslim traditions over three weekends in December in a gathering that is part block party, part intercultural artistic extravaganza. …

“Every year there is a different theme and this one is ‘the third dimension,’ an invitation to look at what happens when different cultures and identities influence each other to create something new – a hybrid space – as Yael Messer describes it. Ms. Messer is curator of the art gallery run by the Beit HaGefen Arab-Jewish Cultural Center. Messer, who is Jewish, is going over plans with Haneen Abed, her deputy, a Palestinian Israeli, in their shared office. The staff of the center is made up of both Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.

“The story of the Holiday of Holidays is also the story of Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city. Haifa likes to bill itself – though not without criticism – as the country’s capital of coexistence, a place where Jewish and Arab residents live more integrated lives.

“Across the country, most Jews and Arabs live separately even in so-called mixed towns and cities, such as Haifa, where the two groups usually inhabit different neighborhoods. Social interaction is especially rare.

“But the festival brings together people from both sides of the demographic divide to dance to music performed on outdoor stages, on streets festooned with holiday lights. Arabs and Jews together follow the path of food and literary tours through the alleyways and streets of the mostly Arab neighborhood of Wadi Nisnas, eating local offerings like hummus and baklava at food stalls and attending concerts of liturgical music at churches. The massive undertaking is organized by Beit HaGefen and funded by the city of Haifa.

“Upstairs from Messer and Ms. Abed, their colleague Hila Goshen, the cultural director of Beit HaGefen, has her laptop open to a color-coded schedule of the festival’s events.

“ ‘It seems like every year there is some war, or military operation, or suicide bombing that happens [during the planning season] and we ask, “What are we doing, bringing people together to hear music and hear each other?” ‘ says Ms. Goshen. ‘And then the festival happens and this place looks like the most normal place on earth. The magic happens.’ …

“She says the example of the gathering, brief as it is, shows this concept of shared society, a place where Arabs and Jews can live together and lead equal lives.

“ ‘I know all our issues are not being solved in this festival,’ she says. ‘But even having this kind of exposure to thinking a little bit differently is a seed we have to plant.’

“Some critics believe this is gauzy naiveté. They argue that people really come to the festival for the food, not the message of unity. But [Asaf Ron, the director of Beit HaGefen,] disagrees.

“ ‘I don’t think people come for the hummus or the knafeh,’ he says. ‘I think they come for the hope.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here. Check out past posts about the three religions interacting as the Daughters of Abraham, here, and in the pliable time of youth, here.

And for extra inspiration, click here to learn about the Parents Circle Family Forum, a beacon of light in Israel that brings together the bereaved on both sides of the conflict who understand that ending it can only come from the ground up.

lede20image

Read Full Post »

Photo: Hartford Courant
Former US Marine Roman Baca
develops ballets that help veterans heal and help audiences gain empathy. For his Fulbright Fellowship, he’s creating a new version of Igor Stravinsky’s
Rite of Spring tied to WW I.

Not long ago, Suzanne’s friend Liz found a piece of antique weaponry and asked instagram friends how it might be used in an art project or something else positive.

I said to “beat it into plowshares.”

In their own way of beating weapons into plowshares, war veterans may continue to serve the country after their time in the military. They may run for Congress like Seth Moulton of Massachusetts or establish a nonprofit like Soldier On, which treats veterans suffering from addictions.

And then there’s the Marine who became a choreographer to tell stories that enlighten and heal.

Candice Thompson writes at Dance Magazine, “When Roman Baca returned home from active duty in Iraq in 2007, he found himself having a tough time transitioning to civilian life.

” ‘I remember a couple of instances where I was mean and angry and depressed,’ says Baca. [His wife] suggested Baca return to his roots in dance. ‘She asked me, “If you could do anything in the world, what would you do?” ‘…

“Baca had to broker his transition back into dance. Earlier, he had trained at The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory in Connecticut and spent a few years as a freelance dancer before feeling compelled, like his grandfather had, to serve his country. ‘I walked into the recruiter’s office and said, “I want to help people who can’t help themselves.” ‘ Baca reveled in the rigor of the Marine Corps, which seemed like a perfect analog to classical ballet. …

“Baca served as a machine gunner and fire team leader [in Fallujah]. And while his job was one of looking for insurgents and intelligence, Baca also ended up doing humanitarian work, bringing water and school supplies to those in need. The transition from violence to aid helped him meet his original desire to defend the vulnerable.

“In 2008 … he reached out to his mentor Sharon Dante from The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. He had dabbled in choreography before joining the Marines and had begun to write while overseas. Dante suggested [that he] focus his writing and choreography on his experiences in Iraq. The exploration led Baca to form Exit12 Dance Company, a small troupe with a goal of inspiring conversations about the lasting effects of violence and conflict. …

“When a theater in the UK reached out to him in 2016 about creating a new Rite of Spring — one that would explore the connections between the creation of this famous ballet and the outbreak of World War I, in commemoration of the war’s centennial, as well as touch on today’s veterans and current events — he knew immediately it was a project for [him].

” ‘One percent of our population serves in the military, and an even smaller number serves in war,’ explains Baca of one of the central questions motivating this new commission. ‘How do we take all of this remote and little understood experience and inspire the audience to positive action?’ ”

More at Dance Magazine, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Joseph Eid / Agence France-Presse
Painting the word “Peace” in Arabic over 85 rooftops on a Tripoli street for a project led by twin Lebanese street artists over a three-year period.

Nearly everyone wants peace. Nearly everyone expresses that over and over. You would think we would have peace by now. One large-scale expression of the world’s fervent wish in a city badly damaged by conflict took three years to accomplish.

Agence France-Presse reports, “From the street below it’s easy to miss the workers daubing rooftops as part of an ambitious art project in two battle-scarred neighbourhoods of Lebanon’s Tripoli.

“But the Ashekman street art duo behind the project say that once they’re done, the pistachio-green rooftops they are painting will spell out the word ‘Salam’ — Arabic for ‘peace’ — on a scale visible from space.

“The project, three years in the making, is the brainchild of 34-year-old twins Mohammed and Omar Kabbani. …

“They chose a site spanning the Bab Al Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighbourhoods, which have fought successive rounds of armed clashes in recent years. …

“Peace has been elusive in Sunni-majority Bab Al Tebbaneh and the adjacent Alawite-majority Jabal Mohsen. Fighters from the two areas have battled each other periodically for decades, and the war in neighbouring Syria, pitting a Sunni-dominated uprising against Alawite president Bashar Al Assad, has further stirred existing enmities. …

“Ashekman’s project runs on either side of the infamous Syria Street separating the two neighbourhoods. The duo hired workers from across the divide to help them complete the project.

” ‘All of the workers live here in the neighbourhood, they lived the conflict, some of them got shot,’ Omar Kabbani said.

” ‘Two years ago they were hiding from bullets … now they’re painting their rooftops proudly.’

“The brothers are sensitive to the observation that their project does little to address the most obvious scars of fighting or the area’s desperate poverty, often identified as a catalyst of the violence.

“They say they chose paint that will seal rooftops against rain and reflect ultra-violet rays, cooling the homes below.

“And in order to paint the rooftops, they had to negotiate with residents and often had to clear large amounts of trash and debris. …

“Walid Abu Heit, 29, joined the project as a painter after hearing about it from March, a Lebanese NGO that has worked on reconciliation and rehabilitation in the rival neighbourhoods. …

“He and other workers lugged heavy tubs of paint up seven floors and began plastering a roof with the fluorescent green, which flecked his hands and boots.

” ‘It’s an amazing project,’ he said, smiling and shading his eyes from the blazing sun.

” ‘The word peace, it’s a great word … we haven’t seen it for a long time, now we’re seeing it again.’

Read more here; also at National Public Radio, here.

And ponder the power of artistic twins here, at one of my posts on street artists Os Gemeos. The Greenway’s first giant mural, which they painted, is still my favorite. It makes you think about “The Other” as a sweet little kid.

Read Full Post »

For better or worse, no movement ever dies out completely. The hippies and Rainbow Children of the 1960s seem to have morphed into something called the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a “disorganization” that has annual, playful camp-outs in the wild. (The Wikipedia editors say the entry on the group, here, needs work, but I think it gives you an idea.)

Jessica Rinaldi at the Boston Globe took a lot of photos at the July 2016 gathering in Vermont.

Here’s what she says about the event: “Each year, for a few weeks in summer, a loose confederation of like-minded souls called the Rainbow Family of Living Light quietly converts a site in a public forest somewhere in the United States into a communal living space for thousands.

“Campsites are established, latrines are dug, and an elaborate water filtration system is erected to bring water from nearby streams. While the group’s origin is a bit cloudy, it’s generally accepted that the first ‘official’ gathering of the Rainbow Family was in Colorado in 1972. For the summer of 2016, they gathered in Mt. Tabor.”

Is this the escape you’ve been looking for?

Rinaldi’s photos are available at the Boston Globe, here.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
The Rainbow Family gathering draws free spirits from across the country, including this man dressed as a tree-like Ent from “The Lord of the Rings” at the 2016 event, held on public land near Mount Tabor, Vermont. Great array of photos to be found here.

Read Full Post »

As some readers know, I used to be quite energetic about Esperanto, an invented international language that I’ve blogged about a few times.

Even though Esperanto never took the world by storm, it’s still in use, and the goal to create a widely accepted bridge between languages and cultures is still a worthy goal.

At the New Yorker recently, Joan Acocella wrote about Esperanto’s founder, Ludwig Zamenhoff, a Jew living in Poland at a time of fierce enmity among people of different ethnicities. Convinced that a shared language could promote peace, Zamenhoff decided to do something about it.

The usefulness of a common, intermediary language was not a new idea, writes Acocella. “Ambitious organizations such as the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church made sure that their members, whatever their mother tongue, learned a second, common language. …

“Esperanto’s creator, Ludovik Lazarus Zamenhof (1859-1917), a short, sparkly-eyed, chain-smoking ophthalmologist, was a Jew, and, as he wrote to a friend, this made all the difference: ‘My Jewishness has been the main reason why, from earliest childhood, I gave myself completely to one crucial idea . . . the dream of the unity of humankind.’

“By this he may have meant that Jews were broader in outlook. In any case, he felt that they needed to be. In the town where Zamenhof grew up — Białystok, now in Poland but at that time part of the Russian Empire — the population, he wrote, ‘consisted of four diverse elements: Russians, Poles, Germans, and Jews; each spoke a different language and was hostile to the other elements.’

“He went on, ‘I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all men were brothers, and, meanwhile, in the street, in the square, everything at every step made me feel that men did not exist, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews.’ …

“[At one time a Zionist], Zamenhof became disillusioned with Zionism. … He wanted Judaism purged of all narrowness. Let the Jews keep some of their nice things, their High Holidays and the stories and the poetry in their Bible. But, as for theology and ethics, they should confine themselves to the teachings of Rabbi Hillel (first century B.C.), which, according to Zamenhof, consisted of just three principles: that God exists and rules the world; that He resides within us as our conscience; and that the fundamental dictate of conscience is that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. …

“At his nineteenth-birthday party, in 1878, he surprised his guests by giving each of them a small dictionary and a grammar of a new language he had invented.” It was the beginning of an international movement.

More here. The New Yorker article is a review of Esther Schor’s book Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language.

There’s a lot more to the story of Zamenhoff and the rise of Esperanto, which today is spoken in surprising places all over the world. (When I was first learning it, for example, China was publishing propaganda stories in the language.) To learn more, start with the New Yorker book review — and then maybe the book itself.

Photo: Loyal Books
Ludwig L. Zamenhoff (1859-1917), the eye doctor who invented Esperanto as a language to bridge disparate cultures. The word Esperanto means “one who is hoping.”

Read Full Post »

We have no idea what Wednesday will bring, but let’s do this. Let’s commit to focusing on what we once shared with that friend whose life path led him to a different decision. Let’s honor his or her life path if not the most recent destination. We’ve had different life experiences.

Let’s focus on what we both like: the funny things small children say, lazy days at the beach, imaginative Halloween costumes, the blended aromas of a Thanksgiving kitchen, Peter Pan.

There’s no need to bring Abe Lincoln into this, but well, you know: A house divided against itself cannot stand.

As I passed by on my walk last Thursday, this engraving with its old-fashioned wording spoke to me.

110316-let-all-your-things-be-done-with-love

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: