Lets Swap Terry* Holiday Tales

Terry readers! Hope you had a fabulous holiday where you rested and relaxed, had some delightful adventures, and became ready for a brand new semester and year. (2010! Doesn’t that have the loveliest ring to it?) Before we jump into wonderful new conversations together, I’m so curious: what did you do over the holidays? Did you make any new resolutions? Whenever we have a long absence Terry* readers, I’m ever so eager to catch up on your news.

I’ll start. I’ve been in Toronto this winter break doing much conference-ing. First I attended an enormous conference (12,000 + people all gathered at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre) called Reviving the Islamic Spirit which featured speakers from all over the world speaking about a wide range of topics: from race relations to the environment, (incl. Copenhagen) to the importance of building reading traditions, to civic engagement, to the development of healthy communities, to identity, to pretty much everything in between. Cat Stevens even came and gave a few lectures!  I’ve never seen so many Muslims in North America at one time, and I’m pretty sure the people in the surrounding area hadn’t either. One day as I dashed into a nearby Tim Hortons to grab breakfast, a man in the cafe took in the sight of the cafe crammed full of women in scarves, the street that was full of people streaming from all directions toward the Convention Centre and asked in a slightly trembling tone, “is there some sort of festival going on?” I couldn’t blame him for finding it a slightly overwhelming sight, and as I waited for my food we had a good chat discussing some of the events listed in the program guide for that day. On the flight over, the couple beside me saw a CBC story on the event which led to an interesting chat as well-yay for wonderful conversations and  people who are willing to suspend fear and uncertainty to learn more!

On the first night of the Convention, a giant concert was held featuring many different artists, including a few songs by the extremely talented Isam Bachiri of Outlandish. He also spoke briefly about performing at Hopenhagen, how the moment when Desmond Tutu jumped on stage and started rocking to the music along with them was a special one, and spoke generally about the experience of trying to raise their voices for climate change.

Which brings me to Resolution #1: To have the energy of Desmond Tutu! I couldn’t find a very clear clip of his talk or the Outlandish performance, but did find  this neat clip online of some of his words and the hope people had in the audience. You can feel Desmond Tutu’s sincerity even within those few minutes. And he is eighty years old.

There were so many neat parts to the Convention: seeing a thousand plus coats being collected for those in need, seeing people pledge money and meals for a hunger campaign, seeing an afternoon comedy performance challenge audience perceptions and ways of being (humour and social change are a particular interest of mine, so that was a definite highlight) and many more moments and experiences.

After the three day convention ended, the majority of participants went home, and a smaller retreat began (with around 400-500 people from across the US, Canada and other countries) with a handful of wonderfully gentle peaceful, patient teachers (methinks Desmond Tutu would have enjoyed the gathering) from around the world (hailing from places as far off as Cambridge University, Mauritania and Yemen) teaching intensive classes (from 10 am-past 11pm every day for six days) on specific texts. We learnt about community development and civic engagement and patience and courage and time management and personal development and so so much more! I’ve only just returned home now with notebooks full of interesting reflections, and I’m buzzing with energy for the new semester and year. At first I thought the conference might not be relevant to write about, but as I entered Pearson Airport on my way home and saw newspapers and television and news headlines after many days, noticed huge lineups of people traveling back to the US with the security changes, saw CBC news stories on main television screens about a calendar project in Alberta to put forth positive images of women it was a reminder that productive interdisciplinary discussions are always worth having, and ideas and perspectives from all sorts of places are needed to build healthy communities. I created a separate space to chronicle more details about the experience, but I’m sure stories will appear on terry*from time to time as well. (For ex: I met some wonderful folks from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s at a special lunch in between conferences, and learnt about what Faith Act Fellows from a variety of backgrounds are doing to help fight malaria, and I’d like to write more about that project soon.)

First though, I’m interested to learn more about the art and social change connection. There is a neat event happening next week that I’m looking forward to loads. Details below.

The Liu Institute’s Transitional Justice Network presents

Arts and Mass Violence: New Forms of Engagement

A dialogue about artistic research and practices relating to situations of mass atrocity, social reconstruction and social change.

Thursday January 14, 2010
Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC, 6476 NW Marine Drive

4:00 – 5:30 \\ Panel discussion \\ Liu Institute Multi-Purpose Room

  • Judith Marcuse (International Centre of Art for Social Change, SFU)
  • Pilar Riano-Alcala (School of Social Work; Faculty Associate, Liu Institute, UBC)
  • Moberley Luger (English Department, UBC)

5:30 onwards \\ Reception \\ Liu Institute Lobby
Featuring the opening of “Her Name is Beatrice, My Name is Lara: experiences in witnessing, internal displacement and conflict after 23 years of war in Northern Uganda,” a photo-based exhibition/installation by TJN Member, PhD Student and Liu Scholar, Lara Rosenoff.

Everyone welcome! Register for this free public event at: http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/liuinstitute/register-tjn-arts-event/.

Your turn Terry* readers! How were your holidays? Any plans for the upcoming semester/year?

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Shagufta is a UBC Political Science graduate with a passion for interdisciplinary thinking, writing, travel, reading, tea, and interesting conversations. She hopes to combine all of these things in her life work someday. For now though, she studies social policy and planning at the University of Toronto and shares her adventures in and out of the classroom at http://seriouslyplanning.wordpress.com.