A network of artists, educators and others sharing a commitment to use the arts as a resource for conflict transformation and to help young people navigate their way through challenging situations and settings.
Dear Friends of Indra
Desmond Tutu. Died Dec 26th 2021
Desmond Tutu was the inspiration for the original ARROW programme (Art: a Resource for
Reconciliation Over the World) in 2003. His courageous, deeply moral stance against apartheid
in South Africa made him a legend in his own lifetime, his voice reverberating around the world
denouncing racist injustice. He was willing to put his life on the line again and again in standing
up for what he believed was right. He supported the BDS campaign as a non-violent means to
enable racist South Africa wake up and become aware of the self-defeating stupidity of apartheid,
as well as its immoral foundations and practice.
After the collapse of the apartheid regime, President Mandela asked him to lead the Truth and
Reconciliation Committee, which involved Tutu listening day by day, sometimes in floods of tears,
to the stories of people whose lives had been cruelly devastated. For Tutu, reconciliation was not
a simple, easy letting go, it was a profound struggle which understood that acknowledgement and
acceptance were the first but necessary steps in moving forward.
The Truth and Reconciliation hearings provided a platform for deep listening, for the sharing of
people’s stories and experiences of the apartheid years. This initiative inspired the vision and founding
intention of ARROW; to explore how the arts could provide a non-violent resource for reconciliation
and conflict transformation.
One of the proudest days of my life was the opening of the Desmond Tutu Centre on the campus of
what is now Marjon University. Although Tutu himself was unable to attend, Mary Lange and some
of the ARROWSA group went to Cape Town to interview ‘the Arch’, a memorable experience for them
all. The management of Marjon at the time had understood the symbolic relevance of Tutu in relation
to the Marjon mission – an understanding, sadly, not shared by ensuing administrative regimes.
In later years Tutu’s moral voice still echoed around the world. He was deeply distressed on visiting
Israel and Palestine, commenting ‘that at least the white apartheid regime wanted us for our labour’.
As years earlier he had supported the BDS campaign in South Africa, he now voiced his support for
the BDS campaign in Palestine. As he memorably put it, ‘to be neutral in a situation of injustice is to
choose the side of the oppressor.’
As well as the serious intention to provide a platform for sharing stories, celebration and fun have
been major components of various ARROW/Indra Congress events over the years; resonating with
Tutu’s infectious laughter and irrepressible humour, a trait he shared with that other icon of spiritual
and moral courage, the Dalai Lama.
The world is indeed a better place for Desmond Tutu living here.