By Asitha Jayawardena
Storytelling is part of the agenda when we feel very strongly that the arts offer us new ways of seeing and feeling and give us inspiration and new avenues for reflection and action, said Professor Ros Wade, Chair of the RCE London, on the second of the online webinar series on 25 November 2021.
This webinar series called Sustainability and Beyond celebrated the 10 years of RCE London and it is hosted by London South Bank University. RCE London is the London Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainability.
RCE London is part of the global network of centres that are endorsed by the UN University Institute of Sustainability Science. Currently, 181 RCEs are located around the world and RCE London is one of the eight in the UK.
Education for Sustainability
For those who are interested in education for a sustainable future, we found this network offers inspiration, ideas, solidarity in joint action and reflection for the sustainable development goals, said Prof Wade.
This webinar series comes in the context of the global meeting of COP26 and the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which highlighted the extreme urgency of addressing that with the title of the report, Code Red for Humanity, to keep within the 1.5C of warming, she said.
‘We can’t solve the problems of today with ideas that cause them so how do we make changes,’ she asked. In reply to this question, she said that she felt very strongly that the arts offer them new ways of seeing and feeling and give us inspiration and new avenues for reflection and action.
‘And storytelling is part of all that agenda,’ she said and handed over the proceedings to Sigfried Janzing from the Netherlands.
Involved with COMMEET worldwide fellowship, a not-for-profit organisation, Sigfried aims to assist people in their community empowerment. He is also a director of the Freedom and Peace Museum in the Netherlands.
In 2020 he participated in a team of experts and activists from across the globe to collaborate design of a toolkit for communities to promote the well-being of migrants and displaced persons creating welcoming spaces in their local environment
‘That group was headed by Ros Wade and she made collaboration a wonderful experience’ said Sigfried. ‘We as a team learned many lessons in that journey and one of the lessons was to address the urgent global challenges of today’s world.’
‘We need to change the dominant political narrative and storytelling is a valuable tool for this,’ he emphasized. So, they collected in-depth toolkit experience for stories from 5 continents and wrote a chapter in the toolkit about how to develop our own community stories.
‘This is the background of today’s webinar on storytelling, he said.
A new way of storytelling
We have designed ourselves a new way of storytelling, said Sigfried. Not so much listening and reacting but contributing together into a common story to achieve what in South Africa is called ubuntu which essentially means I am through other people.
There is oneness in humanity and this oneness is presented by three wonderful activists of community empowerment from three different parts of the world, from Bangladesh, Iran and Portugal:
- Barbara Moreira from Portugal
- Astera Mortezai from Kurdistan in Iran
- Philip Gain from Bangladesh
Barbara Moreira: Barbara is a community activist from the city of Portal. She started an initiative in the small city of Ima to create a welcoming space for refugees and connect this space with care for the elderly and sustainable agriculture.
Astera Mortezai: Astera is a performance artist and she empowers communities by inviting them to produce powerful displacement stories and promoting a different way to look at refugees. We are not victims, we are avant-garde (i.e., new and experimental ideas and methods in art, music and literature) examples to the world.
Philip Gain: Philip is a lifelong journalist and an activist who decided that there is another way to look at journalism. Not by Philip but through Philip, marginalized people who can’t speak took us by him. Their voices are heard by him.
Listen to their stories in their own words in this slide:
After telling the story, Sigfried asked questions and then the breakout rooms came for three smaller discussions.
I hope that this webinar becomes a story itself, he said.
Storytelling into our own lives
Concluding the session, Professor Wade had noted down some of the key elements of the excellent roundup of three conversations and put them into future discussions and future conversations.
‘This is the way to carry on storytelling and to advance Sigfried’s idea that the whole webinar being a story and now we are all part of that story of the webinar,’ she said. ‘Hopefully, we can take this forward into our future activities and lives and take something from this into our own stories.’
Note: Neil Basing of London South Bank University managed the event.
Storytelling, documenting, inspiring (event on slide) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SbfsvpV25c&list=PLwuMjzwXhzSerteeK195NaFwyZlcxtNnX&index=2
Storytelling, documenting, inspiring https://rce-london-sustainability-and-beyond.eventbritestudio.com/166491754319