Sunday, 21 October 2012

Indra Congress latest newsletter

Sharing the latest Indra Congress newsletter.  Indra Congress builds on the international ARROW programme started by David Oddie which inspired and supported the beginning of ARROWSA.

Once upon a time the god Indra made a large net to cover the whole world.  Each point of intersection consisted of a beautiful, precious pearl.  None of the pearls existed by themselves except as a reflection of each other and of all the pearls in the net.  In turn the whole net relied on each individual pearl for its existence.

It is now two years since we embarked on the ambitious journey to establish Indra as an independent network of young people, practitioners, teachers, academics and others who share a belief in the power of theatre and the creative arts to build bridges, encourage inter-cultural dialogue, challenge prejudice and destructive myths.
In a relatively short period of time we have established the Indra Congress as a registered Community Interest Company, held a successful training and planning event at Edge Hill University for the UK and Ireland groups, received an award from the Anna Lindh Foundation to enable our young people in Palestine to link with their counterparts in Northern Ireland, begun a process of dialogue with the University of Plymouth with regard to a formal collaboration and  won an award from Arts Council England to explore the Cooling Conflict framework with inner city schools in Plymouth.  We have watched our colleagues in South Africa set up an independent NGO as they move from strength to strength, and we have begun planning and fund raising for the Derry 2013 Congress.  I am delighted to tell you that Mary Duddy and First Act Theatre in Derry have been awarded £12,000 through the City of Culture programme towards hosting the 2013 Congress. Derry is UK City of Culture for 2013 and Indra is now part of the official programme.
The Derry 2013 Congress provides us with an opportunity to consolidate what we have achieved to date and clarify the purpose and direction of Indra in the years ahead.

Derry 2013
Mary Duddy and her team in Derry are working hard to prepare for the Congress next year.  These are difficult economic times and we are going to be hard  hard to raise the resources to get participants to attend, especially from countries such as Sierra Leone and India.  (People have commented to me that India claims to be a successful and ambitious economy, why should we offer help there?  The answer is that Urvashi Sahni’s young women are subject to extreme caste discrimination and poverty, they need all the help they can get – and the fact that we did get them here last time was life transforming for them.)
 At the Edge Hill event the UK groups made a firm commitment to begin fund raising and we welcome ideas and suggestions from our wider network of friends.  We have a challenging time ahead to make the Derry Congress successful.  These words from Christopher Dillon, a member of the Derry Indra group, may help to motivate us:
INDRA is the most important and life changing entity in my life. Since I joined the group, my eyes have been opened. I was privileged enough to have attended the first international Congress back in 2010. From the moving stories of the Indian girls, to the raw energy and passion of the Brazilians, it was a singular and unforgettable moment in my life; the shining jewel in my life experiences. I have felt more love and friendship in a week, from someone who doesn't even speak the same language as me, than most people will experience in 10 lifetimes! Anyone under its net would be transformed. 
Mary and First Act have been exploring some fascinating ideas for the Congress, several of them inspired by the young people who attended the Edge Hill event.  They include the creation of a huge Indra’s net and a musical composition devised by the participants in the build up to Congress.

Edge Hill 2012 
Edge Hill University kindly hosted an event in August that involved the groups in Bolton, Burnley, Durham, Plymouth and Derry coming together for a week to take part in training workshops and help plan the 2013 Derry event.  It was a great opportunity for Mary and the group to listen to the imaginative ideas put forward by their colleagues.   Here is a participant from Burnley, Sarah Frielick, talking about the event:                                        
Hello, Its Sarah from Burnley youth theatre. I thoroughly enjoyed Indra this year, it was my first year of attending an Indra event and I loved every minute of it. The people there made me feel very comfortable and welcome, I definitely want to go to the World Congress in Derry 2013 because I enjoyed it so much. I would love to experience meeting new people from all around the world, and try to help ‘cool conflict’ through  drama with people with the same mindset as yourself. The thing I enjoyed the most was when we paired up with someone we had never met before, and told each other a personal story, then we shared these, talked with other groups and created a drama based on one of the stories. This showed us all how dramatic other people’s lives can be.  I thought it was a really good activity to do because I learned such a lot about other people.
Sentiments echoed by Oliver Isherwood, also from Burnley:

The Indra conference last week was fantastic. I loved literally everything about it, the people, and the cooling conflict workshop. Everything was fantastic. I just wanted to stay there longer. The different activities from the different Indra groups were interesting as to see what games and warm-ups they play. I also loved the cultural sharing event.  Overall the conference was full of learning, laughter and just a generally brilliant time.
A number of excellent ideas were discussed for the Derry group to consider for the Congress.  Following the event Alix Harris, co-ordinator of the Plymouth Voices for Change group, suggested the idea of a ‘buddy system’ in the build up to the event.   In Alix’s own words:
Since the UK groups met up in August I have been doing some thinking about how they could also stay connecting with each other a bit more. I am aware of how busy the groups are but I think that we should encourage our young people to communicate with each other more, as a way of discussing INDRA and the work they are doing which then in turn might evoke new ideas and new thinking. I was thinking of introducing the idea of an INDRA buddy scheme where each young person partners up with another and contacts them weekly/monthly which ever they decide up until the congress in Derry. The reason I suggest this was because when we were in Liverpool I noticed that each of the groups had a few shy members who weren't at the forefront of making friends but by the end of it they had found one of the other shyer members and I feel that if they had the opportunity to chat with someone prior to the Congress it might help those people.
The Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF)
Anna Lindh was a prominent Swedish, Social Democratic politician who was widely tipped to be Swedish prime minister, speculations which were dashed by her brutal assassination in September 2003.  The ALF, named after her, was formed in 2005 and seeks to bring people together from across Europe and the Mediterranean region.  The ALF encourages mutual respect between cultures and is a network of over 3000 civil society organisations across the region.  We are pleased to part of the UK branch of the Foundation and were recently delighted to hear we had been awarded a grant to enable the Indra young people in Northern Ireland to engage in a linking project with their peers in Palestine.   The aim of our proposal is to encourage the participants to use the language of theatre, music, dance, poetry, art and photography to share their experience of coping with conflict around them, learn from each other and present their shared experiences and ideas to their peers from around the world at the Derry Congress.

Cooling Conflict
Over the past year I have been exploring the use of the Cooling Conflict framework in inner city primary schools in Plymouth.  The model has shown great potential and I am working with a group of headteachers and their staff who are keen to develop and cascade the process throughout their schools and spill out into their local communities.  We have received a grant from Arts Council England to help us achieve this objective.  Over the course of the next 18 months we will be working mainly with 5 primary schools in Plymouth and one secondary school.  The work will start in the classroom, engage parents and families, the local community and then culminate in a showcase event at the Plymouth Barbican Theatre.
I have also been implementing a process to cascade Cooling Conflict throughout a secondary school in Cornwall, Saltash Community College, in which a pilot project in the summer had a significant impact.

The University of Plymouth
In a recent newsletter I mentioned that I had been invited by the University of Plymouth to become a Visiting Research Fellow.  In addition to this we have been discussing a proposal to base the Indra Congress at the University; a partnership arrangement that would effectively give Indra a home in return for offering students and staff opportunities for placements, research and teaching input.
The University signalled their support by offering to cover Indra’s cash flow during the course of the project with the ALF.  Without this support the project would have been unable to continue.  We look forward to nurturing this mutually supportive partnership.

Greece has been experiencing severe economic pressure, which at a grassroots level is resulting in anxiety and despair for many.  The situation is made worse through the emergence of extreme political groups that capitalise on people’s suffering and incite acts of racial hatred.  The Hellenic Theatre/Drama and Education Network (TiE Net-Gr) is a professional association of teachers, arts practitioners and others who promote the practice of, and research in, theatre and the performing arts within education.  In November this year they are holding a Conference in Athens, ‘Theatre and Education: bonds of solidarity.’

Questions to be explored at this Conference include:
What role is theatre/drama in education called to play in the context of the global crisis? Can it fruitfully question the current situation and suggest ways of dealing with both smaller and bigger issues in our lives?
How can theatre/drama in education be utilised to confront issues of violence, intercultural and multicultural education, democracy and civil rights?
These questions resonate with the activities of Indra and I am very pleased to have been invited to make a presentation at the Conference.  I am particularly grateful to Betty Giannouli and Dave Pammenter in Athens who have generated interest in Indra and we look forward to having a Greek group attend the Derry Congress next year. Fellow Indra director, Tim Prentki, will also be giving a paper, Living Beyond Our Means, Meaning Beyond Our Lives, as well as co-facilitating a workshop.

The University of Alberta
The Faculties of Arts and Education at the University of Alberta have recently been successful in getting the funding to enable their students to engage with Indra and attend the 2013 Congress.  The students will also collaborate with another grassroots initiative in Kenya.

Some bits of news.....
The South African NGO ARROW SA continues to develop a wide range of projects and, thanks to Mary Lange, I am delighted to say we now have an emerging Indra group in Zimbabwe.
From India we learn that the wonderful young women, who moved people so much at the last Congress with their courage and determination, are now making great progress with their own education, despite huge obstacles.
Concluding reflections
In the world of the arts we live in a bidding culture in which the dominating  paradigm is linear, project based.   A project has defined objectives, time span and outcomes that can be measured at the close.  This is helpful for the ‘gatekeepers’ to funds, such as arts councils, foundations and cultural committees.  However, much of our work in the arts and in peacebuilding is more complex, moving forward in spirals, circularity and repetition.  For example, after the signing of peace accords there is, in many instances from N.Ireland, Rwanda to the Balkans, evidence of an increase in violence towards women.  It may be that after the peace accord a community returns to previous, unresolved patterns of behaviour and attitude; attitudes that ironically may well have been instrumental in causing the conflict in the first place.  Formal reconciliation processes may by-pass these deep rooted patterns in a relentless effort to seem to be ‘moving forward.’  Hence vulnerable people within the community feel they have ‘no voice’ and that peace agreements are made by others in big, inaccessible buildings behind closed doors. 
As arts practitioners we must continually challenge and remind ourselves, ‘who do we really work for?’  The young people and communities we seek to serve, or the well intentioned gatekeepers - who may have their hands tied by rigid systems, outcomes and outputs - through whom we, sometimes desperately, seek funding for our ‘projects’?   There are indeed some barriers and boundaries to cross here!

Best wishes to all
David Oddie
With Tim Prentki and Dawn Melville

Finally, some reminders............
A handful of images from the 2010 Carnival held at the Desmond Tutu Centre at the University College St Mark and St John, Plymouth UK.

A story from Brazil

Building bridges in Sierra Leone

South Africa leads the way...

Preparing for the Carnival

Rehearsing for the Carnival story

Thinking it through

Listen, it’s easy......

And then it happens

Copyright © 2012 The Indra Congress, All rights reserved.
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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

ARROWSA Bechet participant, Hlobisile Khanyile, wrote a poem at home and then brought it to a session and shared it with the group. She says that she wrote the poem after the noise and excitement of a session the previous week when the group was workshopping a play.

ARROWSA               by Hlobisile Khanyile  (17 yrs)

ARROW is my place called home
A home forming a future and uplifting each other
With a mother
Working on different brothers and sisters
Every Tuesday and Thursday
Enriching minds and souls
with people’s different cultural beliefs
That will evoke peace and happiness
in lives and still make changes
In the world
Yes! We are different and that’s what
brings us together
You would hear rhythm and style
playing during our sessions
and you would hear shouting
and screaming of excitement
When we write down our differences
on a piece of paper with a pen  writing
That can never be erased
That brings a bigger brighter future
A future more like our dreams
That are better than our Guess Jeans
That fitted perfectly but never lasted for years.
You can find your dream in ARROW
So full and free
Without hearing a mother’s scream
Or voices of horror and fear
ARROW is my place called home                                              2012

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Let’s go back to the days

By Darnelle Fortune  (14 yrs)


Let’s go back to the days
when we were young
When we were free
And lived life how it’s supposed to be

When imagination was not a word
But a part of our dreams
When being hurt didn’t matter
and sadness didn’t exist

When LMNO was one word
And we didn’t know the meaning of obscured
When friendship was the only relationship
and the fun never ended

When it was OK to cry
And impossible to lie
When you never wished you’d die
and focused on spelling “My”

You see!
There’s a difference between past and present...

Past is the essence of life...
it makes you who you are...
past is a simple time of life...
that takes you very far...
it’s a learning curve that many have been through
it’s a journey that leads you to...
the present is now
it’s on the spot
the present is time...
the present is life...

We often get confused between the two
and our minds don’t go too far
let’s go back to the days
that made us who we are!                           2012

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Positive chat 



jewellery exhibition opening at DUT art gallery July 2013

"It was the best exhibition opening that we've ever had! There was such a good vibe!"  
(Bhekithemba ARROWSA assistant facilitator)

"The students jewellery was magnificent!" (Visitor)

'The jewellery was so well made and reasonably priced." (Visitor)

"You could see that a lot of work and attention had been put into the jewellery!' 
(Visitor from Johannesburg)

"I could have listened to Prof Mc Cracken speaking all day about his home town Derry in Ireland!" 
(DUT student)
"It was interesting what the Prof said about the similarities and differences between the Irish and the Zulus and that the Irish could learn something about reconciliation in the small things from the South Africans."
(ARROWSA Bechet)

" Dr Connoly made us feel so special and what she said was so interesting!" 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)
"She really made us think about how art also includes science and the importance of the Irish and our culture in pre-writing times"
(ARROWSA Bechet co facilitator)

"When I got home I told my parents about it and they were proud of me and wished they had been there." 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)

"I was so proud of 'The Songbirds' and the dancers. 
Even though the music on their phone didn't work  and one of the dancers belts started to come off - they just carried on and gave it their all!"  
(Bhekithemba ARROWSA Bechet co facilitator)

"A lady dressed in mauve (Marja Bremer) spoke to us afterwards and congratulated us. She was so appreciative and encouraging!" 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)

"The evening highlighted the worth of the ARROWSA trips" 
(Osmond Lange Architects 2006-2011 ARROWSA funding support)

"I think everyone will want to send their children to Bechet after tonight" 
(Bechet High teacher)

"I loved the food!" 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)
"There was such a spread of food and all just from the ARROWSA Management team each bringing something"  
(ARROWSA Management) 
"A man came up to me, congratulated me and shook my hand, then I headed for the chips." (ARROWSA Bechet learner)

 "Darnelle's poem was amazing!"
(UKZN lecturer)

"I was so impressed that Tshetiya's storytelling kept the attention of even the DUT and UKZN students" 
(ARROWSA Bechet facilitator)

"Do the ARROWSA group really write their own material?  That is so good!" 
(Visiting youth)

"I really enjoyed the band, rock on!"  
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)

"A lot of pieces of jewellery were sold! It was so full! " 
(DUT art gallery curator)

"19 pieces were bought on the opening night!" 
(ARROWSA Management)

"Please say thank you to those people who have supported us every single exhibition opening like Lauren and her family and Mrs Bremer!"
 (ARROWSA Bechet learner)

"I enjoyed every minute of it" 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)

"This year people really seemed to appreciate what we're trying to do." 
(ARROWSA Bechet learner)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


One of ARROWSA's objectives is to bring together individuals, institutions and organisations via the arts for the sharing of knowledge and the promotion of understanding for peace.  Towards this objective collaborative jewellery exhibitions have been held over the past three years.

This year ARROWSA, CCMS, UKZN, Bechet High and DUT Jewellery Design and Manufacture department will hold their collaborative jewellery exhibition at DUT art gallery, Steve Biko Campus from the 20th July to the 1st August 2013. The theme of the exhibition links to the 2013 IAMCR hosted by CCMS, UKZN namely "South-North Conversations".  In line with this theme the jewellery exhibited will be inspired by the fusion of south and north cultural influences - specifically South African and Celtic (Irish).

The jewellery exhibitions have also served the purpose of fund raising towards ARROWSA youth's participation in face-to-face intercultural exchange excursions both nationally and internationally.  This year a portion of jewellery sales will go towards the ARROWSA youth attendance of the Indra Global Youth Congress in Derry, Ireland June/July 2013.

At the exhibition opening the ARROWSA Bechet youth traditionally perform and this year the group has created a short programme on the theme of communication past and present.  They work shopped the programme over three days in the school holidays.  Participants this year range from a youth who has only attended ARROWSA Bechet sessions for two weeks to one who has attended for 7 years. The short programme includes poetry, dancing, story telling, music and singing 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

ARROWSA Research Portfolio Report

by Lauren Dyll-Myklebust
Jan -June 2012

The following activities and progress has taken place:

Biesje Poort (BP) Research / Project

April 2012
Proposal submitted: to National Heritage Council (NHC) for: Biesje Poort, Northern Cape, Rock Art Book: A Learning Process.
1)  to disseminate knowledge of the Biesje Poort rock art and surrounding areas
2) provide opportunities for initial Biesje Poort team members (who promote multi-racial/cultural/academic disciplinary representativity) to gain skills in research, report writing and editing. 

BP project has been used as an example of multivocality in research in forthcoming publication by CCMS staff:
Tomaselli, Dyll-Myklebust & van Grootheest (forthcoming) Personal/Political Interventions via Autoethnography: Dualisms, Knowledge, Power and Performativity in Research Relations, In Stacy Homan Jones, Tony E. Adams & Carolyn Ellis, The Handbook of Autoethography. Left Coast Books.

CCMS Masters Research
1)      New MA research on ARROWSA affiliated project/organisation:

Prestage Murima: “Assessing teenagers’ knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards teenage pregnancy. The case of Bechet High School”

Prestage has presented at the CCMS research seminar and has submitted her proposal and ethics form to the Higher Degree Committee.

2)      Continuing MA research on ARROWSA affiliated project/organisation:

Miliswa Magongo: “Ripples of Empowerment? Exploring the role of participatory development communication in Biesje Poort Rock Art Recording”

Miliswa is likely to complete her dissertation this year.

Development Communication and Culture Honours Projects
There have been 3 topics linked to ARROWS affiliated projects and organisations. All projects have been submitted and in the process of examination:

Danielle Evans:  “Unearthing the current cultural heritage tourism marketing strategy: Palmiet Archaeological Community Project Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, as a cultural heritage tourism site”

Dumisani  Mthethwa:  “Analysing the role that indigenous Knowledge and heritage play in participatory development communication: A case study of ARROWSA: Art, Culture & Heritage for Peace project at Bechet High School”   

Sandisa Nyokana: “Participation Communication in Applied Theatre: An analysis of POPPETS (Program of Primary Prevention Education Through Stories) conducted by the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal”.

Sunday, 17 June 2012



Msunduzi Museum (Pietermaritzburg) invited us to present a workshop for a group of youth at the Oribi Village Pietermaritzburg for Youth Day.  The workshop took place on the 14th June in the afternoon at the South African Vroue Federasie (SAVF) community hall at Oribi Village and we were not sure quite what to expect.  

The group of youth was a bit younger than what we anticipated and we worked outside on the lawn but we still had a lovely time with the energetic children.  The Msunduzi staff also attended, including their director and deputy director as well as some of the SAVF staff who gave the group food after the workshop .

As always Kaya of Msunduzi was very welcoming and did his best to make us feel welcome and at ease.

The programme that we presented was as follows - with some adaptations due to the limited concentrations span of some of the young ones:

1.       Intro – Mary, Gogo and Luthando – theme of movement  and dance in culture for unity and fun!

2.       Warm-up –Luthando – Simon says
3.       The woman and the baboon – movement in story – teach and then do in a circle – tell story with audience participation as actors and movement – Emphasis on working together and survival

4.       Hunter-Gatherers – Ostrich dance – unity in diversity -context and objectives (Mary)
Moves – Mary, Gogo and Thikwe (puppet) and ostrich egg
In pairs – outer and inner circle facing each other
5.        Herders – Nama stap – Gogo short demonstration
6.       African farmers – unity in culture -women’s role – marriage song – Gogo Umakhoti
Participants who wanted went to the centre of the circle and led the song with movements 
7.        European settlers – English  - Mary – Hokey Cokey – unity in culture across the world – Entire group in pairs – outer and inner circle – change partners with each new move

9.       City/working culture – the benifits of dance - unity in struggle – Gumboot dancing – Luthando - in a circle the participants who want to show their own favourite dances

We felt privileged to have worked with Msunduzi Museum again and especially to have worked with the Oribi youth.

ARROWSA Action Research and CCMS, UKZN

ARROWSA promotes action research on our projects so that we may reflect on our activities and address and changes that need to be made.

ARROWSA is privileged in 2012 to once more have both volunteer facilitators and research students from the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), University of KwaZulu-Natal conduct action research on two projects.  

CCMS Masters students Luthando and Prestage are both volunteer facilitators.  Luthando is facilitating the ARROWSA Bechet sessions as well as assisting in facilitation of the culture and heritage projects e.g. at the Bergtheil Museum, Palmiet and Msuduzi programmes.  

Prestage has enthusiastically assisted in facilitation of and participated in the ARROWSA Bechet sessions this year and is facilitating a link with schools in Zimbabwe.

CCMS Honours student, Dumisani conducted his Development, Communication and Culture (DCC) module research at ARROWSA Bechet. He was researching the role that Indigenous Knowledge (specifically dance) played in development at the Arts for Peace project at ARROWSA Bechet. Part of his research methodology included participatory research and Dumisani attended  and participated in a number of sessions.

CCMS, UKZN Honours student Danielle also conducted research at ARROWSA for her DCC module.  Danielle researched the marketing strategy of ARROWSA Culture and Heritage for Peace - Palmiet archaeological dig programme (in association with the Bergtheil Museum).

We look forward to sharing Danielle and Dumisani's research when available.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Palmiet Nature Reserve Management Committee and ARROWSA promote heritage for knowledge and peace through visits to the Gwalagwala Cliff archaeological dig and a related nature trail.


On the 23rd May 2012 at about 9:00am, 41 pupils accompanied by four teachers from the Westville Hindu School attended a field trip to the Palmiet Nature Reserve.

The scholars and teachers were split into two groups and I led one group, ably assisted by Luthando Ngema, on a short trail to the base of Phansipumula Cliff for a brief geology lesson followed by a walk around the Gwalagwala precinct where flora and fauna was discussed whilst the other group visited the archaeological dig with Mary Lange assisted by Kathlyn Lange. After a brief tea break the groups reversed positions and undertook either the trail or the visit to the dig.

The scholars then left the reserve shortly after 11:00am and proceeded to the Bergtheil Museum until 1:00pm accompanied by Mary, Luthando and Kathlyn

The school made a donation of R250.00 to the Palmiet Nature Reserve.

Whilst the crossings of the river to and from the dig site passed without incidence it again highlighted the urgent need for a bridge.

Warren Friedman. (Palmiet Nature Reserve Management Committee see

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Culture and Heritage for Peace - 

ARROWSA and the Palmiet Nature Reserve Gwalagwala cliff archaeological site.

ARROWSA is working in affiliation with the Palmiet Nature Reserve Committee and eThekwini Parks and Nature Reserve towards the development of the Palmiet Gwalagwala Cliff archaeological site for school educational programmes and cultural tourism. On the 06 May 2012 a group of visitors was taken to view the archaeological dig.  The context and background of the dig was explained to the group through the use of artefacts.  A mixture of ages and cultures were included in the lively group who crossed the river despite the high water.  This emphasised the need for a bridge if these programmes are to take place regularly.  The visitors were encouraged to visit the Bergtheil Museum to view the artefacts from the site are housed.  Danielle Evans, an honours student at the Centre for Communication, Media and Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal took the photographs and is conducting a research project on the marketing of the programmes.

Visitors at the overhead stormwater drain site at the Gwalagwala cliff site where sherds of Late Iron Age pottery was naturally excavated by flood water
The Gwalagwala cliff archaeological dig includes evidence from second phase Nguni settlers to South African Anglo-Boer war
Strata in the Gwalagwala cliff archaeological dig.

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