An Evening of Transformative Arts

By Robert Valiente-Neighbours

An Evening of Transformative Arts at the IPJ’s The Art of Peace: Creative Approaches in Conflict Transformation proved to be a night of revelations. Members of transcenDANCE and Street Poets Inc. shared their stories of transformation and modeled the courageous vulnerability necessary for that transformation, necessary for being peacebuilders.

transcenDANCE, which uses dance performance to empower youth towards social change, hit the stage first. Empathy became the shape and voice of their dance as they moved in response to candid questions. They modeled the literal struggle of taking on the position of the other. We, the audience, were placed as the recipients of their gift. Our desires to participate in the conversation had to be checked. It was their space and their movements to share and teach us.

In turn, Street Poets Inc. reflected the same unsettling vulnerability. Their words, songs, and stories of wounds wounded our own facades. As they proclaimed, our greatest wounds are seamless with our greatest strengths. Through their art, they held their vulnerability and transformed it. And it unsettles in just the right ways, the ways that draw us closer to them and each other.

As Taylor Code of Street Poets Inc. said, “Art made me human again.” And we are left searching for our own art or ways of turning our work into art to find our humanity. They all pulled back the curtain on this process and showed us how it could be done. This is not a gift to repay but to replicate over and over.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

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