The Art Of ANTI-Exclusion

CCD Symposium

In September 2016, the CCD Symposium in Singapore took place with the title “The Art of Anti-Exclusion” and brought together 12 Asian and European artists and art groups who challenge exclusionary practices through arts.

YANTE’s founder and artistic director, Nadia Arouri, was invited to speak about YANTE’s work at the Symposium. However, due to the refusal of her visa application, it was not possible for her to attend physically. Instead, she managed to hold her talk and teach four workshops via Skype.

Each artist at the Symposium presented their work and methodology based on the specific context they work in. Moreover, the artists presented how their work addressed issues of exclusion. This also meant reflecting on the role of communities during the projects as well as the impact on them and on society as a whole.

Nadia Arouri presentation focused on the universal elements of I CAN MOVE that are replicable best practice tools. After briefly presenting the work, structure, milestones, and context of I CAN MOVE, Arouri presented the tools used at YANTE to foster inclusive and just societies. She focused on our methodology of training trainers and thereof empowering local individuals as agents of change. She also gave examples on how through art we have been able to promote self-expression, self-empowerment and positive change amongst members of society.

In the presentation she emphasised the importance of establishing clarity regarding the values of a project in general, but especially when aiming to challenge social injustice. It is of great importance to research and question “why” we do what we do, for it is the guiding compass of any project / programme at all times and in all phases, especially when faced with challenges. Arouri went on to present the Post-Traumatic Growth theory used as basis in the I CAN MOVE programme design.

“The two most important days in your life are
the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

Arouri placed special importance on the value of a “process” vs. “results” in her talk. She illustrated how the action plan of the I CAN MOVE programme had to be revisited, revised and amended many times throughout the 5-year life span of the programme. This process was always guided by our why – Freedom: Freedom of the body, freedom of the mind, and freedom of thought – and guided by a set of values and characteristics we had set as pillars for the programme. These values and the process of the values are illustrated in the diagram below. Arouri went on to elaborate on our understanding of these values, words and representations.

She explained that for us the starting point to any endeavour is honesty. By honesty we do not mean truth, rather the realisation that there are multiple truths coinciding with the number of persons, as each person has a diverging perspective. Memory is placid and life progresses which is why the truth one person held at a particular moment is subject to change and thus could vary with time. Hence to maintain honesty, it is all the more important to nurture self-reflection, humbleness and the ability to admit fault.

Self-reflection is a vital tool for growth. It is the manifestation of a candid sense of agency. It is the process of self-ownership and overcoming of victimhood. It is through this process that mistakes become a valuable milestone of a path. Admitting faults becomes an organic part of the process of growth.

Admitting to a fault.
It breaks the shackles of shaming practices of schooling systems, cultivates humbleness and adds joy to a life process, where mistakes are welcome milestones of growth. It is an indispensable characteristic for successful project management, as it sharpens perception and expedites decision-making processes towards change management.

It enables eye-level encounters. It improves self-, other-, and space-perception. In-line with the above, it boosts the courage needed to examine previous plans, discard and replace them in the middle of a process if the needs of the people and target groups on the ground require so. Such a skill is imperative when working in areas like Palestine where the so-called status-co on the ground is a constant variable.

According to Brene Brown, Dr. of Philosophy in Social Work and a leading researcher on positive psychology at the University of Houston, vulnerability enables connection between people, and “connection is the reason why we are here”. Showing vulnerability, even as a teacher in front of a classroom gives others the chance to take responsibility, step-up, embrace and support others – hence embracing themselves.

The process described above empowers change. It takes us a step further and in many cases there is healing through this empowerment. As Dan Pallotta poignantly said, “people are weary of being asked to do the least they can possibly do. People are yearning to measure the full distance of their potential”.

Arouri closed her speech by elaborating on I CAN MOVE’s biggest achievement as a programme, i.e. its graduates. She said:

“Today I look with pride at the graduates of the I CAN MOVE programme, and how they are completely different as individuals. They have learnt to embrace their differences as an asset, which makes them strong as a group. It is what makes them so special as individuals, therefore they can actually enrich each other, they can lean from each other, and they can ask each other questions.
They are open and unprejudiced. They are utterly incapable of teaching only one single dance technique, because in their physicality they embody an open free chaos. Where they can do anything. They are not brainwashed into one single technique.
In their being, they are not righteous. Last week as they entered a dance hall and found themselves surrounded mainly by ballet dancers – they did not uphold fear towards this difference. Rather, they could see the strength and beauty that the others brought into the room, and used that to create a bridge for working together.
They are inclusive. They invite every person into their classes notwithstanding their background.
They are reflected in their choice of language and communication tools. They strive to communicate non-violently along with maintaining their vulnerability towards building bridges and coming together.
They are abled critical thinkers, and can therefore sharply perceive context and connections.

Through their work in Palestine, our graduates are opening up barriers, countering exclusion and promoting an equal, just and inclusive society. We are proud to see how they individually uphold and work to promote openness, freedom, human rights, and equality to all.”