On the long weekend commemorating Youth Day in South Africa, The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation held a Youth […]
On the long weekend commemorating Youth Day in South Africa, The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation held a Youth and Reconciliation Camp with 30 teens and young adults from various cultures, backgrounds in Cape Town. On Monday June 17, the 30 participants in the IJR’s Ashley Kriel Youth Development Project, joined the camp participants for a day of “arts as a tool for reconciliation”. The group was divided into six smaller groups that worked with either writing, visual art, photography, dance or singing/songwriting.
I facilitated the writing workshop and was utterly moved by what happened. Through my own writing practice, I have come to believe that writing is the act of listening to one’s self. Words are the first way we communicate and yet so many of us are too scared to put pen to paper. There were a few people in the workshop that afternoon who admitted to being afraid of writing, who felt that it wasn’t for them and the word poetry scared them.
But through a few simple exercises, and the trusted foundation of free-writing without judgment, they all surprised themselves. In South Africa, reconciliation is an ongoing process. Race is never far from our minds. So to write about reconciliation is not an easy task. And yet each one of them did it with courage, sharing honestly their thoughts on identity, on how they deal with the incorrect assumptions made about their commmunities.
What I witnessed was reconciliation in action. Young adults having the courage to speak up about how they experienced life. They spoke even the things that were hard to say, even the things that were sore and tender and therefore harder to say. What struck me the most was the way they listened to each other and the way they gently held space for each other to simply speak and be. They listened with care, with attention and without judgment. They were open to each other, despite the hard things being said. At the end of the workshop, I asked each of them to choose one line in any of the pieces they had written. A line they felt strongly about. A line that they felt best summed up their experiences. We then stood in a circle and I asked them to create an image with their body that represents the line. Going around the circle, they each created their images and said their lines, and the connections between them were uncanny. Below is the poem they created, in the order that they spoke their lines around the circle.
Those Who Want To See, Will See
those who want to see will see
we both bleed red blood.
your smile can be gold
not when you part your lips
but when you part your words
in a way that let’s me look at you
and not worry about the moment you’ll deny who I am
but that you’ll see how Lavis means nothing
and what I say right now
means more than your rolling eyes can see.
you’re just human
who are you? you’re just human
“Mandela dies Hooray!
Wait, isn’t he a symbol of peace?
No, he is the symbol of a country in pieces
when you see me in a dark corner
with my eyes and mouth closed,
I’m swimming deep in my soul
to find greatness within me
You think that because I am white
that I don’t have any problems.
But, when your mother gets her final written warning from work,
shit gets real.
There are many sides to my history.
See, I didn’t know people could be owned.
A failed generation…
those who want to see, will see
During the discussions, one of the participants said: “Us young people, we do want to talk about these things, but it feels like the adults and the people in power just want to sweep it under a blanket.” We need to keep creating spaces for our younger generations to constructively face the woundedness we inherited from our parents and grandparents. There is woundedness on all sides. All of us want to heal
© 2014 Toni Stuart. Designed by Jepchumba