“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”
~ Jonas Salk ~
Geographies of Hope is a space created for change agents to transform, re-energize, empower, and connect in order to regain and sustain the hope we need to continue to make positive social change in the world. Finding such a space for those working in arts and conflict transformation is sometimes difficult, and often change agents find themselves facing isolation, hopelessness, and, in some cases, burnout. We envision a world where hope grows, expands, and creates healing pathways for peace-builders, artists, and communities. The goal of this space is to nourish existing relationships and develop new alliances between those working at the intersection of peacebuilding and the expressive arts, where the diversity of projects and people can act as inspiration.
Geographies of Hope began as a conversation started by a group of colleagues, who felt that there was a growing need to create a space for those who work with the arts in conflict settings - a space where change agents could come together to exchange ideas, share research and methodologies, make art, but most of all, reflect on how to reimagine and sustain hope in the face of the challenging contexts in which they work. Hope often acts as the fuel to continue such intensive work, but also needs to be cultivated as a practice.
Drawing from experiences in the field of expressive arts, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding, the group collectively explored the many questions pertaining to hope through storytelling, metaphors, mapping, movement, and visual art. Some of the questions explored:
What does hope mean?
Where do I see hope?
What landscape or space expresses hope?
Where does one find hope?
Can we find ways to create hope?
While pursuing hope, who do we become?
Is hope active or passive?
Can hope act as a catalyst?
What images provoke a sense of hope?
Through this process, Geographies of Hope was created as a resource for change agents and communities around the world.
why expressive arts?
The Expressive Arts (EXA) is a growing field in which all art modalities (visual art, music, theater, poetry, movement, dance, and nature) are used to help individuals and communities through change and troubled times. The tradition of integrating rhythm, music, story, mark making, and dance into celebrations, ceremonies, and healing rituals has been integral to most cultural contexts and indigenous communities for centuries. The expressive arts emerged as remedies alongside these existing practices to see the individual, family, group or community recover a sense of well-being, connection, and ultimately a restoration of self.
The foundation of EXA is phenomenology, where emphasis is placed on the present moment and lived experiences of those participating in EXA therapy or workshops. The use of all arts is important in meeting people where they are and to offer a vast array of tools to empower, foster coping skills, strengthen community cohesion, and inspire hope for the future.
Why Conflict transformation?
In a time in which there are high levels of polarization, othering and ongoing harm in contexts around the world, the work of conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and social change is essential and vital. We recognize that the work of peacebuilding and how it is defined is vast, diverse, and complex. Conflict transformation seeks to not only resolve conflicts but also actively work towards transforming systems that support violence or cause harm to communities. It focuses on the structural and root causes by also challenging the injustices, finding pathways to restore connection through the practices of mediation, reconciliation, collaboration, research, resilience-building, activism, and nonviolent methods.
Most importantly, conflict transformation should also be included in conversations about health, well-being, and development. We believe that much can be learned from the conflict transformation and peacebuilding field to build towards a society that is more equitable and accessible for all. Believing that each of us, no matter what our profession, can be change agents and practice peace, our hope is to explore the intersection between conflict transformation and the arts. Sustainable peace requires more than cognitive thinking alone. Conflict and violence also impact our senses and our spirits and we believe that this cannot be dealt solely through rational processes. It also involves a holistic response that invites creative capacities as a resource for building peace. The arts play a role in helping to promote different ways of thinking and being, exploring new openings into an unknown future. When there are no words or clear rational ways forward, the arts in partnership with conflict transformation may provide us a tool to examine and explore both difficulty and hope between the borders of suffering and possibility.
WHY FOCUS ON HOPE?
Hope matters. Hope helps us in the midst of difficulty and pushes us to take creative risks. We do not see hope as a feel good emotion nor something superficial, but something that can actually grow, expand and be cultivated. Hope is described and felt in a vast amount of ways in different cultures, communities and contexts. Researchers name hope as one of the key steps to build resilience and move towards healing after experiencing trauma. It is cited as a human need for survival. We believe that in times of rupture, the practice of mapping hope helps us to return to our self, to reconnect with others and with nature, and to activate our imaginations in order to envision new possibilities for a shared future.
Geographies of Hope works to create space for communities of change agents to come together to practice hope together. In the practice we believe that our own definitions and understandings can be challenged and inspired as we share stories collectively. We also aim to give space for the difficult, the hard, and the not so easy work of grief, lament, and despair. Hope must also contain the hard work of naming and facing what is also part of our reality: pain. Without this, the definition of hope can remain too small or narrow. Yet in the practice of mapping hope we have the possibility to bear witness to each one’s lived experience, hold difficulty together, lean into joy and together keep moving towards life.