Conflict Transformation Workshop - Loch Tay Retreat

Loch Tay Winter Retreat

Back in a snowy February 2020 a group of young people from Ignite Theatre Group spent three days at Loch Tay, Scotland.

The focus of the retreat was to examine issues around conflict transformation and how the arts can help survivors cope with past traumas. The retreat centred around four different workshops, each looking at a different element of the arts: Words, Music, Adinkra and Improvisation.

The retreat was documented by photographer Robin Mitchell. Robin’s photographs have been turned into a video (below) and the music that features was composed by the young people of Ignite at Loch Tay.

Please click on the video to view.

Arts Workshops

Words workshop. Credit: Robin Mitchell
Cerdit: Robin Mitchell
Adrinka symbols. Credit: Robin Mitchell
Drums. Credit Robin Mitchell.

Words

The Words workshop encouraged small groups to identify a theme that resonated with them. The team then weaved these themes together to create a story.

Hosted by Giovanna Fassetta (CUSP DA Principal Investigator) and Tawona Sithole (UNESCO RILA Artist in Residence) this session encouraged participants to actively listen and communicate with each other.

Music

Hosted by Gameli Todzro (UNESCO RILA Artist in Residence) the group explored African drumming and the Kora and were encouraged to find confidence through elements of music such as rhythm.

The group were set musical tasks that will help them to deal with conflict in the future.

Adinkra

Lead by Naa Densua Todzro (UNESCO RILA Researcher & Artist) the group used Adinkra symbols to celebrate their journey so far.

Adinkra symbols are from the west coast of Africa, particularly Ghana where they have great significance and are widely used throughout Ghanaian society.

Improvisation

Using what they had learned during the retreat’s workshops their own lived experiences the group began to process past traumatic events.

This exercise led to “Papercuts”, which was Ignite’s last show before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Photo Gallery

All photo credits: Robin Mitchell

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

1. Why did they kill my dad -Baba?

CUSP would like to thank Nazmi Al Masri, our Co-Investigator, who worked tirelessly throughout the conflict to capture Palestinian stories and document what was taking place in the Gaza Strip from 14th May 2021 – 21st May 2021. These blog posts were written during the conflict.

As the bombs rained down on the Gaza Strip, the work of CUSP shifts from building cultures of sustainable peace, to using language to testify to the suffering of war, the bloodshed and loss of civilian life. For our Palestinian partners in Gaza, this is now the place from which building sustainable peace must begin. The terms of our work have been violently reset here.  

In this piece, our Palestinian partner Nazmi Al Masri offers his reportage and tells the story of the killing and grief. He skillfully renders the immediacy of the destruction of peace and its effects in prose, the sentences factual and staccato reflecting the desperation, the reaching for evidence which is part of the necessary foundations for the justice which builds sustainable peace.  

The work on this piece is joint – editorial safety and authorial safety in a context where killing has become indiscriminate. We offer his words as part of the work of cultural justice as it unfolds, in extreme distress.  

Why did they kill my father?

BY NAZMI AL MASRI

Aya’s quotes have been taken from this article, first published in Arabic by Aljazeera, you can read the article here. For the purpose of this piece, some stylistic interpretation has been used.

“WHY did they Kill my father?”  

Cried sadly Aya Muin Al-Aloul who miraculously escaped certain death when Israeli warplanes, in just a few minutes, fired about 50 heavy bombs on Aya’s house and neighbouring residential buildings at Al-Wehda Street in GazaPalestine 

Stealing the Palestinian homeland for more than seven decades is never sufficient for Israeli occupation forces.  

Just one hour after midnight on Sunday 16 May, 2021, Israeli warplanes stole and killed the dreams and lives of 2 Palestinian doctors (Muin Al-Aloul and Ayman Abu Alouf), and 40 children, mothers and fathers who were in their homes.  

Credit: Alison Phipps

On this Sunday, heavy Israeli bombing caused an “earthquake” in the heart of Gaza City. Aya sadly describes this man-made earthquake:

“I was sitting with my parents in their room, as usual since the outbreak of the war, and suddenly there were aggressive and terrifying explosions. Our apartment collapsed completely and I started removing the debris from my body, God has given me the strength to survive.” 

“Our flat was full and surrounded by blackness, and the dust and smoke emanating from the explosions blocked my nose and almost killed me by suffocation . . .  I feel now that I have died and resurrected.”  

“I heard my mum calling me from under the rubble. In those moments I did not realize where I was, I tried to remove the rubble and save her, but it was not easy” recalling this heartbreaking tragedy.  

“I screamed with all strength, ‘help us, help us’ and as an ambulance was driving with full speed around the place, I blocked its way to seek help, and I did not know that my father was martyred,” Aya said, with tears falling from her eyes. 

Suffering painful physical and mental wounds, Aya describes her 66-year father: “my dad (baba) is compassionate, a human and distinguished psychiatrist, killed with smile on his face showing his pleasantness and goodness.” 

On her bed in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Aya extends her hand and grabs her mother’s hand, who was lying on a nearby bed with wounds, and in a shocked voice and fully distressed tone, Aya asks: “For what guilt did they kill my dad? “ 

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

CUSP - Palestine

CUSP - Palestine

Cultures of Sustainable and Inclusive Peace is linked to two of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development – or SDGS – SDG 5 – on women and girls and SDG 16.

SDG 16 is especially important in the context of our work on the theme of conflict transformation and protracted conflict.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Find out more about Goal 16 here: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal16

What is the role of cultural organisations?

The role of cultural institutions, as opposed to political and intergovernmental organisations, is vital in promoting ways of imagining peace and pathways to justice. Whilst political and legal institutions are vital for upholding laws and making laws, cultural institutions are where peace and inclusion can be imagined, promoted and built effectively.

Equally, cultural change indexes shift in conflicts and their transformation as well as creating new points of conflict. We focus especially in CUSP on how this manifests in the roles played by women and girls. We do this under the auspices of our funders and also the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and Arts at the University of Glasgow.

Find out more about the work of the UNESCO RILA Chair here: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/unesco/

To do our research we focus on the meso-level. We are working with and funding partners at the level of the community and with NGOs working in towns, cities, villages to build institutional capacity. We are employing researchers in context to inquiry, participate and analyse the cultural and artistic processes and roles played by cultural institutions and their works – libraries, books, stories, poetry; dance halls, choreography, performance; drama, theatres, ritual; photography, exhibition space, artworks.

Because we are working in contexts of ongoing, protracted conflicts, it is also the case that our work can be subject to renewed conflict and war. This is the case with our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestine joined UNESCO on 23rd November 2011: https://en.unesco.org/countries/palestine

Artwork made from pieces of spent artillery used in previous aggressions against Gaza; made by Art Students at Al Aqsa University, Gaza, Palestine.

Our Partners in Palestine

Our partners in Palestine were subject to bombardment, the targeting of civilian populations, medical workers and journalists as part of the greatly intensified hostilities of 2021. This is in addition to the attacks on al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and the evictions for the purpose of illegal settlements in Sheikh Jarrar: https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12657.doc.htm These “Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms.”

As part of our work to continue, even in the most extreme conditions of fear and warfare, to imagine peace, as determined by UNESCO in it’s Preamble, we offer this series of witness accounts from our partners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in The Gaza Strip.

“Since wars are made in the minds of people then it is in the minds of people that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Read more about UNESCOs Constitution here: http://www.unesco.org/new/unesco/about-us/who-we-are/history/constitution/

A Word of Warning

The accounts make for very difficult reading, and are fearful and outraged in tonality – as is the case for expressions and cries of pain, and of what has been seen.

We know from the scholarship on trauma healing and the building of a sustainable peace, founded on justice, that the atrocities and violations of international law rely on witness statements, on the work of academics who can furnish details and report from what they see and experience (Atkinson, 2002; Bloom, 2006, 2010, n.d.; J. P. Lederach, 1995, 2003, 2005; J. P. L. Lederach, Angela Jill, 2010; J. P. N. Lederach, Reina; Culbertson, Hal, 2007; Weingarten, 2003)

We affirm our solidarity and support from CUSP with our partners in Palestine and continue to call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and an end to the military operations that are detrimental to peoples mental and physical wellbeing. We urge for the building of institutions of peace, inclusive of women and girls, to promote individuals’ wellbeing and the development of the Palestinian society (as per UNRWA mandate).

We refer readers to the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights: Palestine’s statements and work in this area: https://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/sp/countriesmandates/ps/pages/srpalestine.aspx

We call for an end to the present hostilities and for the Responsibility to Protect: https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml

References

Atkinson, J. (2002). Trauma Trails: Recreating Songlines – the transgenerational effects of trauma in indigenous Australia. Melbourne: Spinifex Press.

Bloom, S. L. (2006). Organizational Stress as a Barrier to Trauma-Sensitive Change and Systems Transformation. Retrieved from

Bloom, S. L. (2010). Bridging the Black Hole of Trauma: The Evolutionary Significance of the Arts. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 8(3), 196-212. doi:10.1002/ppi.223

Bloom, S. L. (n.d.). Trauma-Informed Systems Transformation: Recovery as a Public Health Concern. In W. M. Steele, C. (Ed.), trauma-Informed Prectice for Children and Adolescents. New York: Routledge.

Lederach, J. P. (1995). Preparing for Peace: Conflict Across Cultures. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Lederach, J. P. (2003). Conflict Transformation. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.

Lederach, J. P. (2005). The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Peace Building. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. L., Angela Jill. (2010). When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys through the soundscape of healing and reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lederach, J. P. N., Reina; Culbertson, Hal. (2007). Reflective Peacebuilding. A Planning, Monitoring, and Learning Toolkit. In: University of Notredame.

Weingarten, K. (2003). Common Shock: Witnessing Violence Every Day–How We Are Harmed, How We Can Heal. England: Penguin

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).