Fractured bits of glass = cohesion
It’s an unlikely mix. A Jewish charity providing services to people with learning disabilities and autism, a psychologist who is also a mosaic artist, the Church of England’s Near Neighbours Project, the British Department of Communities and Local Government, The Dragonfly Collective and the London suburb Edgware (kind of like any suburb in Melbourne ‘at the end of the line’).
An unlikely mix that has combined to collaborate on a mosaic peace tree to be installed in a public location in Edgware as a symbol promoting peace and acceptance across a diversity of faiths, worldviews and abilities. We’re sharing it as an example of what can be done on a small scale in a local community to create cohesion.
Like in so many places across the world so to locally in Edgware pockets of social isolation, disengagement and fracturing along religious and ethnic boundaries are evident. We are also aware how this fracturing occurs between people of different abilities.
Suspicion of what is ‘different’ or ‘other’ is hard-wired in some people. Whether it is different abilities, different faiths, different clothes, different languages, different food, different traditions, or something that does not fit with our own ‘tribe’, globally or locally too many fractures between people fester and turn toxic.
While we can’t take on the whole world we can do something locally.
With a grant from the Near Neighbours Fund (http://tinyurl.com/n7ed6k3) we plan to combine people of all ages and abilities from local ethnic, cultural and religious groups in a series of cooperative three hour workshops led by Mosaic artist/psychologist Naomi Selig (http://tinyurl.com/puysx7r).
The real work will be to ensure that we generate a ‘safe space’ to explore difference and otherness, with a mix of people that more often than not are to be found apart rather than together.
Working together participants will cut glass and construct a mosaic peace tree. The design of the mosaic will specifically mix colour and shape together, to identify how diversity can be combined into a cohesive whole.
Each individual leaf will be designed by individuals or groups to identify their ‘uniqueness’ – whether that be ethnic, faith based, abilities based, age, gender or a mix of several of these distinctions. The first set of workshops will both design the individual leaves and the final form of the mosaic under the guidance of the mosaic artist. This will ensure that the final mosaic is a collaborative community design. In the second set of workshops all these individual leaves will combine into the one final mosaic – a strong symbol of peace and cohesion.
The plan is then to install the mosaic in a prominent public space in Edgware. Both the launch of the project and the installation of the final mosaic will bring together members of all the major different people groups in Edgware with a street party and food and a celebration of each others uniqueness and sameness. It will be a collective accomplishment and we anticipate it will in its own unique way generate new understanding between people and heal fractures that exist simply because people don’t know or understand each other’s way of living.
It’s a local example of the power collaboration can have in face of a global challenge. Maybe you could replicate the idea in your context. Please do!