Quite to my astonishment, the Peace Work Institute ‘happened’ to me, like all the best things in life, when I didn’t even know how much I needed them and what a significant impact they would have.
I joined Peace Work Institute at the second training session in Berlin as a part of the Art4Peace project. Being a part of several YMCA TenSing groups, I felt that I fully understand the value of art and can share my knowledge with others. I did not expect that my whole world will be turned upside down, my perception of art would reach a different dimension, my role as an artist would acquire a new purpose.
Never have I thought that I would learn much, MUCH more than I would give. During the week in Berlin we learned about the Do No Harm approach. It struck me how much smaller things matter. We all say that peace is fragile, but rarely think why that is so. The idea that we, as peace makers, can be absolutely sure that we are advocating for peace, but, in fact, worsen the situation due to a lack of conscious Do No Harm project assessment gave me goosebumps. The good news was that a correct project assessment gives us the power of empathy, the power to understand, to relate, to change.
Suddenly, I realized that peace, art and people are so similar: fragile and powerful at the same time. I did not really understand what to do with this knowledge and how to work in the international team with the people coming from countries that have so many issues. I have an idea of how to do art and what peace is, but how do we do Art4Peace? This part of our practical learning was about to come in Georgia at the Art4Peace Camp.
That week was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had. I think we all felt that art is a peace tool itself, one that allows us to talk about similarities (the cartoons we all watched as children, the cuisine we share, the books we have all read, etc.) and to express all sorts of feelings in a non-verbal, yet very effective way (through playing on the stage as a team, interpreting paintings, singing in a choir together). The impact of art was so massive that, at first, I was not sure how to deal with it.
You never know where this path will bring you: what topics, what pain or trauma you will have to deal with. It turned out that art – or rather the community building art as a peace building tool – helps to express so much! It also encourages to share the moment, be empathetic, and a way to communicate your feelings as well as to be listened, to be understood and accepted.
On my personal level, exploring art as a peace building tool helped me reach my inner peace and settle my relationship with my country, excepting my heritage, but also draw a ‘healthy’ line between me and my country. It guided me through my strong love to my country mixed with guilt. It also enabled the participants from Russia to explore themselves and their relationships with people from different countries and to form their own opinion of what is happening in the world. I think that we, theArt4Peace project team, made a great step towards understanding each other, and we are definitely not stopping there.
Natalia Martynenko, Russia – Roots Peace Work Institute 2018 Alumna
More testimonials available in our Peacework Guidebook.