“You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.”
— Toba Beta
In times past we lived in smaller, more intimate communities. We came to know one another through knowing the family. We spent our lives around people we had grown up with, and within the sons, daughters, cousins and friends of those people. There were fewer secrets, greater openness, less suspicion and more trust. There was context.
Today people just land in our lives out of nowhere. They have no context, no background, no history. All we know is what we see, so we are forced to make snap judgments based on skin tone, religious dress, accent and our own stereotypes and generalisations. In the first instance it’s our only way of discerning, of figuring out who to trust. And then, rather than talking with someone, or even prior to meeting them we look them up on social media, looking for clues.
Of course, because we make judgements based on appearance and social media profile we know that others do the same, so we all spend a lot of our time making our outsides look presentable and creating online personas to attract other people. Yet in all our online profiles rarely is ancestry mentioned. Context is still lacking. Apart from perhaps mentioning a city of birth there is no I come from section, nowhere to tell our story of childhood, of parents, siblings, grandparents, of flight, immigration, of the things lost and the hurt suffered, of great achievements and strange adventures.
This workshop offers a space for all of that, a space to talk about our backgrounds, to tell our family stories, to share intimacy, to create moments of awe and wonder as we look upon one another with new light. Going forward it will remind us to start with wonder rather than judgment when we meet new people.
Starting with conversation, in pairs and then groups, and moving into penmanship and artistry, we’ll create prose and poetry pieces, drawings, curated talks, maybe even theatre pieces to share with one another, and perhaps take away from the workshop to share with our friends, colleagues and families.
You may like to bring photographs or other artefacts to help you to tell your story. There is a photocopier available if you wanted to distribute images or create collage. Mostly though, just spend some time thinking about your history, and your parents’ history, and their parents, going back as far as you like. If you history is vague or lost, embrace that too, and consider non-ancestral influences.
Who should attend?
This workshop is open to anyone and everyone. No special skills are needed, just a willingness to be open and vulnerable, and a desire to learn about yourself and listen to the stories of others.
This is a pilot workshop, so you are asked to pay what you like, by credit card when you register or on the day in cash.