The Indra Congress (International Development of Reconciliation through the Arts) is inspired by the idea of Indra’s net, a net held together by interdependent jewels, we are a growing global network of young people, artists, educators and others who are committed to using the arts for the purposes of reconciliation and conflict transformation in our communities. We have formed a social enterprise to fulfil this ambition.
Indra has been influenced by conflict transformation practitioners, such as John Paul Lederach, who suggests we need a paradigm shift in approaching conflict, away from a concern with the resolution of issues and towards a frame of reference that focuses on innovative and creative approaches to the rebuilding of relationships at all levels: personal, cultural and structural. Lederach asks ‘what if we as peacebuilders saw ourselves as artists?’ The Indra Congress seeks to explore the implications of this question in practice.
The work builds on the achievements of the award winning ARROW programme (Art: a Resource for Reconciliation Over the World) at University College Plymouth St Mark and St John (UCP Marjon). Since 2004 ARROW had promoted a series of activities with partners in the UK and overseas. In the summer of 2010 over 100 young people and their co-ordinators from across the UK and around the world gathered for the ARROW Global Congress Plymouth. The Congress was a life-transforming experience for several participants, young and old (illustrated in project and summary reports), which motivated a determined momentum to further develop and extend this work.
Anticipating the heavy financial pressures ahead, new management at the College have withdrawn support from grassroots work to reorient ARROW’s activities towards income generating activity, eg. leadership training within the business world and the enhancement of student numbers. However, the passion and belief of the young participants, the artists and co-ordinators led to a brave decision to establish an independent, social enterprise to move this core work forward, extend and expand its activities with a wide range of partners across the UK and worldwide.
Conflict is about humans in relationship. It is widely recognised that there is a need for innovative, imaginative approaches to relationship building that can make significant and challenging contributions towards a more peaceful world. Approaches that acknowledge and respect the real, gut level experience of pain, mistrust, fear and hope of people involved.
Indra’s mission is to use the language of the arts to challenge stereotypes and false myths, to build bridges, promote empathy and heal relationships across perceived boundaries and barriers. We also intend to provide a platform for discussion about the role of the arts in peacebuilding, and to work with young people, artists, educators, organisations, institutions, and others to develop the creative arts as a vital global resource for reconciliation and the creative transformation of conflict.
Indra also aims to utilise ICT to encourage the creative participation of young people and inspire them to develop arts and bridge-building initiatives in their own communities.
Each Indra group (in Bolton, Burnley, Plymouth, Durham and Derry in the UK, and in South Africa, Palestine, Sierra Leone, India, Kosovo, Brazil, Malaysia, Portugal and China) will undertake a creative project in their own community context addressing specific issues such as bullying, racism, inter-communal tension or intergenerational lack of understanding. All the groups will share this process with each other through a structured programme of virtual activities.
In 2013 they will come together for the Indra Global Congress in Derry. Throughout this period we will open the process to others who wish to engage.
At the Congress each group will have an opportunity to share and present the work they do in their own communities and learn from each other; work together in skills workshops including IT, the arts and creative conflict transformation; work collaboratively towards a celebratory carnival at the end and take part in a symposium with practitioners and academics working in this field. Cultural sharing activities and local visits will provide space for informal communication.
Once upon a time the god Indra made a large net to cover the whole world. Each point of intersection consisted of a beautiful, precious pearl. None of the pearls existed by themselves except as a reflection of each other and of all the pearls in the net. In turn the whole net relied on each individual pearl for its existence.