Part of the “Talking Peace Festival” sponsored by International Alert, “Create Syria – the future constellation” is a multi-media installation of art, music, and film designed to “explore how arts can help build a better future” for the million refugees in Lebanon affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. From 21 September to 2 October 2016 at House of Vans in Waterloo, London, in partnership with Cult Events and GrubClub.
“Talking about peace through arts, film, food, and tech”
Having taken up the former Old Vic Tunnels art space in 2015, House of Vans London [HOV] at Waterloo station is a vibrant community centre with a presumed target audience of mostly young people – though clearly, skateboarders of all ages and non-skating visitors alike are warmly welcomed. Inside the unexpectedly sprawling complex, there is a cinema, an art gallery space, several cafe/bar lounges, an indoor skate park, and the “museum of Vans” celebrating all that is this essential element of skate culture.
The third annual “Talking Peace Festival” from 21 September to 2 October 2016, is the latest creative and cultural project at House of Vans and is put on by International Alert, an NGO founded in 1968 with the aim to “work with people directly affected by conflict to find peaceful solutions”.
In partnership with House of Vans, Cult Events, and GrubClub, The Talking Peace Festival is made up of art exhibitions, talks, food, and nine free screenings of “Talking Peace Films” that “explore the cause of conflict” and highlight the world-wide struggle for peace.
Another important aspect of the Talking Peace Festival project is the Conflict Cafe, which aims to harness the “power of food to break down barriers” by sharing “unique culinary experience of food from conflict areas” with a series of supper clubs featuring dishes from Lebanon and Sri Lanka.
Create Syria – the future constellation: “We are all storytellers”
“Create Syria – the future constellation” is an exhibition by eight artists, filmmakers, and musicians who present their current projects from Lebanon’s refugee camps. More and more like cities, these camps currently house more than one million refugees from Syria, many of whom are double-refugees from Palestine, Iraq, or Jordan who had settled in Syria and now are on the move again because of the ongoing crisis there.
Among the three or four video installations in “Create Syria” is a short film of Ossama Halal’s productions of the plays “Under Zero” and “Cellophane”, both related to refugees and immigration. Establishing a “laboratory for experimental theatre” for artists from varied ethnic/cultural backgrounds, Halal runs a theatre programme for Lebanese and Syrian young people with the “hope that there will be real peace between us, human beings”.
Filmmakers Abed al Aziz Aidy, Hussein Taraani, and Karim Qabrawi provide workshops in all aspects of making videos or animation in order to allow space for young people to express themselves and “make their voices heard” as well as finding means of collaboration between Syrians with their hosts in Lebanon.
Drawn around behind a barrier by the sound of a choir, I find a simple set up of two speakers and a chalk-written board on which musician Barkev Taslakian ponders,
Voice is the first musical instrument a person has; it’s given by God.
A long table in the centre of the room provides samples from Mohamed Aloosh, an artist who teaches young people essential skills in drawing and painting, which he says “helps them make friends and unlock their creativity”.
In the final video, I discovered theatre-based workshops in Lebanon entitled “Empowering Dialogue through Peace and Art [EBDA]) by actress Raghad Makhlouf and photographer Wissam al-Ghati, who hope to “make teenagers dream again” by creating a safe space for these young adults to “think about the future in a positive way”.
To sum up, in a well-executed example of combining arts with activism, “Create Syria” and the Talking Peace Festival coincide with the UN’s International Day of Peace (21 September) and showcases
the power of words and creativity in resolving conflict.
The artists of “Create Syria” at House of Vans are:
Abed Al Aziz Aidy – filmmaker, Barkev Taslakian – music conductor, Hannibal Saad – musician and music festival director, Hussein Taraani – student filmmaker, Karim Qabrawi – animator, Mohammed Aloosh – painter, Ossama Halal – theatre director and actor, Raghad Makhlouf and Wissam al-Ghati – actress and photographer
More links and info about “Create Syria” and House of Vans, London
- Talking Peace Festival and Create Syria online – presented by International Alert
- Social Media
- Twitter: @talkpeacefest
- Facebook: /talkingpeacefestival
- Instagram: @international_alert
- LinkedIn: /international-alert
- House of Vans in London Waterloo – “music, skate, art”
Event details: Talking Peace Festival and Create Syria – the future constellation is on from 21 September to 2 October 2016, at House of Vans London under the Arches, 228-232 Station Approach Road, London, SE1 8SW. Free entry; Step-free access.