ASEA: Journeys and Conflicts

Week 3: Journeys, Conflict

In week 3 we cover our journeys from childhood, teenage years, young adulthood and adulthood and the conflicts we faced along the way. The young men and women unite over themes which arise for all of them: God, religion, sexuality, family and peer pressure, bullying, pleasing people, home, identity and making decisions about their future. We discuss the older and younger generations and their respective values. Once again the group forge out a middle ground of values important to both generations. Their interest in media portrayals wanes and they push the media out and become resolved to form their own space and their own definition of who they are. At the closing of the group they are asked to write a word or statement which summarises what they are looking or hoping for at this point in time, as young people suspended within multiple narratives. They read them aloud-

I occupy a middle ground you choose not to see, a hybrid identity that with time changes. For me to understand/come to term with these changes the world needs to acknowledge alongside me…Nor this nor that
I am fighting against a whole system, to be myself
What would the world look like without difference?
I tried to find the right path, I found the straight and narrow path and now I’m at peace
Articulating our vulnerability can solve any conflict
Think about the future of our children
Be at peace with my identity; stop yearning for other people’s situations
I feel like there isn’t one message, or one context, or one audience- I live in a space on the edge of lots of things

Poetry enters the space as one of the Egyptian members of the group defines his current experience by the opening two lines of a famous poem ‘The Will to Life’ by Tunisian poet Abu Al-Qasim Al-Shabbi.

If, one day, the people will to live                      إذا الشّعبُ يَوْمَاً أرَادَ الْحَيَـاةَ

Then destiny must respond                             فــلا بــدّ أن يســتجيب القــدرْ

Some of the other participants recognise the poem, used in revolutionary images and music throughout the Middle East since it was written in the early 20th century. During the recent Arab Spring it was especially pertinent due to Al-Shabbi’s Tunisian roots and the initiation of the uprisings throughout the Middle East, starting in Tunisia with the suicide of street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi. We decide to read the rest of the poem the following week.