A Blog Post From A Syrian Voice Who Has Lived And Continues To Live Through And Speak About Power, History, Her Experiences and The Peaceful Revolution Which Is Mostly Untold Or Poorly Reported On In The West. Please Read As Razan’s Words Are Very Powerful And Profoundly Important.
I hadn’t planned to write this blog post today but the snow piling up outside has given me hope that some of you who are here in New England might have the time to read this. It is also not the kind of blog that I had planned to write but it is what has been on my mind.
I am always sifting through the same kinds of questions while I am painting, sending Postcards or putting up Street Posters. Am I doing this right? Is it ok that I am doing it? Am I being careful enough about my own privilege? Am I sharing these movements objectively? Am I being sure not to be too heavy handed and preachy? Am I doing enough to help the Women I am portraying and working with? Are all of these questions holding me back? I guess it is good to have questions and perhaps it would be very bad news for all of us if we didn’t.
The campaign I am working on now as many of you know is for Syrian Civil Society and Justice Activist Razan Ghazzawi. I came to know of Razan through a Syrian friend Yasser who had worked here at Umass in the STPEC department and is now a Professor at Emerson out East. I had been following his posts about the Uprising in Syria and became very interested in finding a way to widen the conversation here about deeper truths in this Uprising than I felt we were getting from our media. We spoke about several Women Activists doing amazing work in Syria and I was immediately moved by Razan, at first because she had been detained several times for her Human Rights work, but it was in reading her blog entries that I realized her immense talent for conveying what was real and truthful. She has what many amazing Activists have which is a passion and authenticity that People want to connect to. So I decided to pursue having her on board as one of the amazing Women that I am painting and partnering with in order to tell the stories of the Resistance Movements they are a part of.
I was lucky enough to meet Razan in Boston about a month ago as before that we had been in contact over email and skype. I had learned she was leaving her work briefly to speak and raise funds for projects in Syria so I made arrangements to meet her. It really was an honor, Razan is truly a beautiful person and a fierce and honest Activist with real integrity. I was grateful to get to speak with her and to show her some of the Roots work and the Postcard I had created for general outreach about her and about the Syrian Uprising. I was elated that she was pleased with the Art and it’s message and that she was excited to work together brainstorming creative ways to support her Activism. Its just that I focus so intently on these Women, their stories and the faces I will be painting, so that when I meet them and form a connection it is a very high point for me. I am grateful for that.
I wanted to briefly address an issue that I know is out there in this Community and here in the West, particularly on the Liberal Left. About violence within Resistance Movements. About Guns, Revolutionaries, Pacifism. I have noticed that particularly with this campaign I am portraying in Syria that there are questions about the use of violence within the Uprising versus non violence. “If we support the Uprising are we supporting the use of violence”? some People have asked. I am going to give you my opinion about this so you know where I am coming from. I believe that the question of Pacifism or use of arms to defend oneself or make change is a profoundly personal decision and very hard to assess when one has not been confronted with the extreme conditions that bring about the question. I have deep respect for so many movements: The Civil Rights Movement, The Zapatista Uprising, The Revolution in South Africa and the Uprising in Syria and all have used different paths. It is easy in retrospect to make heroes of all of these movements as can be seen with all of the Che Guevara Tshirts, love of Mandela and Zapatista Art but many of these movements were pushed to use force at some point in their struggles. Razan Ghazzawi is a Peaceful Activist doing amazing work within an Uprising full of many players, some who have chosen to use force as an option and who am I to judge that. I am shining a light on the Peoples Uprising, I am painting the Community Builders, Journalists, Human Rights Activists like Razan. I am sharing their story.
It is an odd thing to be painting a reality which is partially filled with so much pain, hardship and oppression that I am not a part of. That of Chouchou Namegabe and DR Congo, Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma or Razan Ghazzawi and the Uprising in Syria. I am not telling my day to day story, I am trying to share the story, history and emotional essence of someone else. Maybe some would say I shouldn’t and that may be a valid consideration but I have decided to go ahead and try. I used to just paint for myself, maybe to try to heal old things but now I want to try to do something else with my Art, something cliche I suppose like make a difference and so be it, like many others before me I would like to do my best to be part of something greater that is outside of myself and my own needs.I think I have some talent for painting stories and telling the story of how things feel in the Art, so that is what I focus on when the inner questions come, the ones I started this blog with. They are good questions and I am sure mistakes will be made, have been made, but I am committed to this work and will just keep doing my best.
Two weeks ago we were profoundly honored with a visit from Roots Activist Malalai Joya. For those who do not know her, Malalai is one of the most important Peace and Justice Activists working in Afghanistan today. She tirelessly resists the War and Occupation, attacks on Women’s Rights, violence, corruption and warlords who have been handed authority over townships and Communities in Afghanistan. As many know she has survived 7 assassination attempts not to mention a constant wave of aggression coming from those that she stands against. It would be easy to caricature her as fierce and fearless, a mythical Super heroine, after all , she is called the bravest Women in Afghanistan. That she is. However, Malalai Joya like so many Activists is more than just her Activism, she is a Mother, a member of her Family and Community, and a citizen of Afghanistan. She worries, faces many fears and feels the weight of a path that is chosen but very difficult. I feel very lucky and honored to call her a friend. She is profoundly kind, gracious, loving, likes to be silly, and yes she is fierce, strong, and profoundly effective at moving mountains. We spend a lot of time checking in about the challenges when I see her but also we laugh a lot. She amazes me. I feel exhausted from doing 5 events in a couple weeks while she speaks in a different state every night for months at a time. When she is at home she must stay in a different safe house every night because of the danger to her and to her Family. Can you imagine her concern for them? For her son?
When she was here Malalai Joya and I had some time to talk about and work on the details of an additional Postcard campaign that will support her aims. We currently send Postcards that we created with Malalai demanding an end to the war and occupation in Afghanistan, around the World. The Postcards are pre-addressed to President Obama and the White House and a stream of them are sent each month from many corners of the Globe. Malalai and I are now creating an additional Postcard and Street Postering campaign to raise funds for a film she is working on called, A Woman Among Warlords. The film is a very important one, as it will be informing a World Community about the real truths and realities of the past and present Afghanistan through interviews and conversations with Malalai and with spoken experiences of the People, Families and Communities inside of Afghanistan. The film is important for many reasons but the ones Malalai sites have to do with bringing attention to Afghanistans forgotten People and bringing their true realities, their truths, to all.
The new Postcards bringing support for this Film, will be available this week so please be in touch if you would like to disperse some.
Malalai Joya is someone who deserves profound respect and the consideration of your support , and I pass on her gratitude to you for that. The link below will allow you to directly support Malalai and her new film: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/malalai-joya
To learn more about how to support Malalai Joya please visit the site of her Defense Committee: http://www.malalaijoya.com/dcmj/
A great article written about the event by local media Organization Orangeink: http://orangeinkeducation.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/the-first-demand-of-my-people-is-justice-malalai-joya-comes-to-food-for-thought-books/
Today’s Blog by Syrian Journalist Razan Ghazzawi. This is about more than facts and accounts, it is about emotional spaces entered into in Revolutions, Uprisings, Resistance Movements. Gratitude to Razan.
This is a post by Syrian Journalist Razan Ghazzawi. Please take the time to read the post and her Blog as it is beautiful, powerful and full of important truths.
Click here to read the post “Back”> Back
Recently someone who is helping me find new directions for RootsTo Resistance and they asked me to write up a brief History of the project. Here it is.
The Story Of Roots2Resistance
I suppose the seeds of the Roots To Resistance project were planted in the Summer of 2009. That was the Summer that I learned about Natalia Estemirova. That was the Summer that Natalia was abducted from her home in Chechnya. She was abducted from her home and murdered because she raised her voice to speak truths and because she refused to be silent. I had never heard of Natalia Estemirova before, I didn’t know that she was a Human Rights Journalist who had tirelessly served as a voice for the silenced, war torn and poor Communities of Chechnya. Yet I was profoundly moved by her story, her life, her work and the sadness of her violent passing. Sometimes a person’s story enters into you and connects with your heart. That is most definitely what happened to me when I heard the story of Natalia Estemirova and that is what convinced me to try to paint Natalia back to life.
I should interject here to say that I am a Painter who has been making Art for 25 years. I was trained as a Painter and a Printmaker in my early 20 s but after I left college painting became my main focus. I stumbled into Art School by accident, not really understanding how I ended up there and not really having the natural born talents that some of my classmates seemed to be able to pluck out on demand. I wasn’t really interested in painting the nude models or the contrived still lives. Then I made a miraculous discovery. I could paint from the inside. I could paint stories, unseen, imagined things and most importantly I could paint feelings. From that moment on I never stopped.
This is the place I was in when I learned of Natalia. I had spent 25 years exploring, learning and growing by making Art and so many new directions and discoveries were also making their way into my work at this time. Social Justice issues and a deep connection to the woods, hiking and the entire natural World had become central to all of the Art that I was creating. Still my specialty was finding unique ways of illustrating the vibrating, explosive nature of feelings, particularly my own. I set about painting Natalia Estemirova’s Portrait in that same way. I did not want to paint a purely reverent and accurate rendition of Natalia, I wanted to paint the Joy, anger, sadness, frustration, love and devastation that must have accompanied her during all of the days of her work. I wanted to paint her wrapped up with the Natural World as a gift which would keep her alive. I wanted People to know who she was and I wanted them to have chance to be moved by her life and her work.
When the Portrait was completed I decided to create a postcard which would bring attention to the life of Natalia and would be Pre-addressed to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, demanding justice and an end to targeting of Human Rights Journalists. The postcards would be mailed across the World and People would be able to learn of Natalia and immediately raise their voices in support by mailing the postcard to its destination. I contacted an Organization in Russia called Youth Human Rights which had done work on Natalia’s case and other abducted Journalists. They translated the postcard text for me and received 1000 postcards which they would put into the hands of Chechen and Russian Community Members. The seeds were planted.
Painting Natalia led me to wonder about the other Women that were alive and doing profoundly risky, Earthshaking work on the Planet. I began to search for them with friends, colleagues and through International and Community Organizations. There were hundreds of Women to learn about and consider. In the end I chose 12 Women and I chose them on the basis of the diversity of where they did their work and on the kinds of work they were doing. I wanted to represent all of the issues: Environmental Rights, Food, Land and Seed Justice, Reproductive Justice, Labor Rights, Sexual Violence in the DR Congo, Indigenous Rights. I wanted to make sure I had Women from all continents and from across the Globe. Natalia was the first Portrait I painted and now there would be 11 others.
This project officially started in 2010 and I left my three cooking jobs to put my full attention to this enormous adventure. This was a terrifying step and I was very grateful to get support from my mentor and friend Tuti Scott, who helped me to formulate a plan for beginning to fund this work. In April of 2010 I was given a $5000 grant from the Giant Steps Foundation to help me on my way. I simplified my life and put all of my funds and attention on this new project which would be called Roots To Resistance.
In these past three years I have painted Afghan Activist Malalai Joya who came and spoke in front of her Roots Portrait at Smith College in 2012. With her help we created a postcard campaign demanding an end to the occupation of her Country and pre-addressed all postcards to President Obama at the White House. Next the Portrait of the amazing Chouchou Namegabe, a Journalist going to the most dangerous places in DR Congo to record the voices, stories and testimonies of Women and Girls. The postcard Campaign created for Chouchou and the DR Congo are meant to open People’s eyes, with stories and information and to raise money for Chouchou and her grass roots Organization AFEM. Also painted were Reproductive Rights Activist Rebecca Gomperts of the Netherlands, The Zapatista Women of Chiapas Mexico, Treeplanter Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma.
All have been depicted in eight foot high Portraits, in ways that are meant to translate their stories, their profoundly important work and the vast array of emotions that have accompanied them on their journeys. The Portraits are meant to be portals through these Women and into their Communities, Resistance Movements and to all of their colleagues and fellow Activists doing work along side of them. Postcard Campaigns have been created for each one of these Portraits.The postcards are sent through a network of over 75 Roots To Resistance Partner Organizations from around the World, everyone from the Greenbelt Movement and AWID to the tiny Fiji Women’s Rights Group have participated to spread this work. These Organizations receive all materials free and help us to bring them into the hands of Community members across the Globe. The campaigns we create are meant to inform the World Community about these Women and are meant to address the issues that the Women and their Communities are fighting for and against. The postcards are meant to inform, inspire and even enrage. The goal is not so much about changing policies or systems, the goal and my hope is that they give People a voice and a small step toward action as the postcard is mailed to it’s destination. They arrive at real destinations, they are not shared in a virtual web space but sent physically into the hands of another and this small step can be a very powerful act.
In these last three years the project has grown so much. Roots To Resistance has begun creating street posters for all 12 Activists so that we can create avenues of resistance, inspiration and information in Public spaces. We send them out free with our postcards and People put them up on the streets and in their Communities. The call for postcards and street posters has grown far larger and faster than the Funds we raise to create these campaigns. Roots To Resistance has been honored to receive past funds from so many generous contributors, we have received funds from the Valley Vagina Monologue performances, an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign, house parties and many personal donations. We are profoundly grateful and still there is a recognition that our outreach and fundraising must now expand and grow as well. It is a time of new partnerships and new and exciting directions. Our Fiscal Partner, local Art Organization A.P.E has provided a space for performances and outreach and countless others have helped to promote this work. With four Portraits and campaigns left to create, the time has come to shift some attention toward bringing this work more fully to international Communities and to my own Community here in Western Massachusetts. This will mean more public performances, parades and displays in all facets of the Community. It is a way of gearing up for the adventure which will arrive when the Portraits are complete. A six month cross country Public Art Tour with all 12 Portraits and many thousands of postcards and street posters displayed on board the converted Roots To Resistance Bus!
For now my near future will be filled with the amazing faces, stories and histories of Syrian Journalist Razan Ghazzawi, Maria Gunnoe, Marina Silva, and the unforgettable Vandana Shiva!
Hello to my loyal group of Blog followers! Apologies for the long break between now and my previous blog as I have been ferociously painting away in my efforts to complete the Portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi! I am thrilled to say that her Portrait is done and pictured below!
So, this blog will be dedicated to giving a brief little peek into what I am doing in the months between beginning a new Portrait and it’s corresponding campaigns and those final days when I post the pictures declaring “The Portrait is done”.
How do these Paintings start? Do I have them mapped out ahead of time? Most definitely not. They build slowly, like a puzzle I am creating as I go,image off of tiny image, I fit the puzzle pieces in one by one. Perhaps the whole Portrait starts with one tiny butterfly as it did in Aung San Suu Kyi’s and then explodes forth from there. That said, the Portraits have common threads. All of the Women stand in the center of their Portraits generally surrounded by other images that define and support them and their work, their lives, their feelings and mine. I paint all of this directly on the eight foot wooden panels and in greater part on pieces of paper which are then collaged onto the wood(the puzzle pieces). The Natural World plays a central role in every Portrait, for both the Women who are profoundly linked to Nature as well as those who may not think of themselves this way. As many know, I do not believe we can have wholly successful movements of any kind with out a full intimate partnership with the Plants, Rocks and Creatures of this Planet and so the Nature is there to support the Women and it is there because it means so much to me. I am an avid Woods walker and hiker and spend some part of every day out on the trails. Many of the things I see there end up in this work.
My materials: wood, pencils, acrylics, watercolor paint and paper, lots of paper. I work standing at my studio table, the same one that the amazing Tammy Stacy built for me 16 years ago. I try to paint 8-10 hour days four times a week and one or two 4-6 hour days.
The rest of my efforts are directed toward researching the Histories of the places where these 12 Women Activist are doing their work, understanding the issues and the challenges they are addressing and listening to the people intimately involved so that I may come to understand a way that Roots To Resistance can support this work and support the voices of these Communities. In my last campaign for Aung San Suu Kyi this meant reading everything I could find written about Burma, its History, the History of Aung San Suu Kyi, and most importantly the History of the over 100 different Ethnic Peoples living there. It meant a lot of emailing. Thousands upon thousand of emails were sent out to People who have lived and worked in Burma. People with a great deal of knowledge about Burma and most importantly Indigenous People living in Burma and experiencing the challenges first hand. As always language plays a part in the challenges faced in corresponding with People in many places on the Planet. I do not speak Burmese or any of the other 100+ Indigenous languages spoken in Burma so I depend humbly and gratefully upon those who speak English and can bring these questions to their Communities. These are the People that make these campaigns possible.
Being that I am a White Woman from the West I have stumbled into predictable ways of thinking about change, being helpful, concepts of victims and perpetrators and conflict resolution, but I am learning and listening and noticing. I recently noticed how this came into play as I was trying to grasp the changing landscape within Burma and how it was affecting Indigenous minority groups there. ( For those like me who hear the phrase ‘Ethnic Minority’ groups so often that the words loses meaning, it is a good practice to remember that these are groups of Indigenous People who belong profoundly to the places that they live>In Burma Indigenous groups prefer to be called Ethnic Nationals) I had been for many weeks deducing that the main issue in Burma that needed addressing was the physical violence being perpetrated against many Indigenous minorities in Burma, particularly the Rohingya People who recently had an entire village burned to the ground. From my outside view this was the pressing issue and it is certainly of profoundly critical importance, but there is such a complex web of issues which support such violence.When I began to read more reports written by Youth Workers who lived in these Communities I found that time and again they felt that the main issue to be addressed was the violence of complete non inclusion. Most Ethnic Indigenous People in Burma are not even given the most basic rights to participate in decisions about their Homes, development on their Lands and about the resources which belong to their Lands and to them. These are the pressing issues that they feel separate them from any possible dreams of a Democratic Burma, as the race for resources, gas, dams, rubies(yes rubies Burma has more than anyone else) races toward them. So I think we have a Postcard Campaign here and I am grateful to the Youth Workers for speaking their truths and for translating them into the one language I can read. *Gratitude*
I hope I have given my friends and followers enough of a peek. I paint, hike, sketch little ideas in my tiny idea books, research and more research, and go through my daily meditations about how to keep calm about funds and little by little keep raising money for this project.
To clarify: Why do I sometimes use the word *we* when I speak about the Roots To Resistance Project? Most people know that the Art, research, and Global Campaigns contained in this project are created by me, Denise Beaudet the Artist. This much is true. However the Roots To Resistance Project is powered by so many People. The 12 Women Activists who’s work inspired this project, the People I correspond with around the Globe who help me to understand histories and issues, the Organizations who partner with Roots To Resistance to bring Postcards and Street Posters across the Planet, the People who translate these materials into the languages of the World, the People who have helped me with fundraisers and funds, and my much loved Friends and Family who have supported me through years of Roots To Resistance events and milestones. WE!
I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have about this project and I would be *very* grateful to receive feedback, ideas, brainstorms and offers of help:)
Please pass this on to others if you have enjoyed it because it makes me smile when People join my blog 🙂 For more information on this project: http://www.denisebeaudet.com/ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In these final days of 2012, which have been beautiful, difficult and indeed heartbreaking for many across our wonderful and complex little Planet, I would like to present to you a group of Organizations doing the work of the People, Plants and Creatures. These are our Partner Organizations. Our Partners help us to bring the Histories, stories, challenges and triumphs of our Roots To Resistance Activists by bringing our Postcard and Street Postering Campaigns to People across many Communities. They are truly doing amazing work and I assure you that if you give the list a few minutes of your time you will be grateful, uplifted and hopeful. Please consider giving your support to one or several below that you may feel especially moved by. Much Gratitude.
Click on the Org to visit the website:
Judy Kibinge, Filmaker-Kenya, Africa
Rosinah Masilo-Rakgoasi-Social/Environmental Support Services-Gaborone, Botswana-
Alliances for Africa-Lagos, Nigeria
To support the Roots To Resistance project please visit: http://www.denisebeaudet.com/support/index.html
Below is the first of five Roots To Resistance Blog postings which will present to you the information from our Global Postcard Campaign honoring the amazing Wangari Maathai. We are honoring her work and legacy by choosing Organizations on each continent doing profoundly important work to protect life on the Planet. Here we present the seven amazing Orgs chosen from the U.S. Enjoy and please pass the inspiration forward!
Wangari Maathai 1940-2011 Kenya:Tree Planter, Women’s Rights Champion and Justice Activist “You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself.”
Dr.Wangari Muta Maathai is one of the most important people to have walked among us, inspired us, and encouraged the belief that a single person, that one small group of people, can have a profound and earthshaking effect on this Planet. Her accomplishments are many; The first Woman in East Africa to earn a PHD, founder of the Greenbelt Movement, Member of Parliament, the first African Woman and the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the qualities that stood out most in Wangari Maathai were her fierce and unrelenting beliefs in herself, her goals, her principles, and in the actions she took in defense of Women, her Community and the Natural World. Wangari accomplished all of this during a time when it was inconceivable for Women to be out in front making demands and leading Communities to rise up. Let us give profound thanks and gratitude to a truly irreplaceable Woman, Activist, and Partner to all Trees and Creatures.
Please take the time to visit Wangari’s Greenbelt Movement: www.greenbeltmovement.org
One of the best ways to meet Wangari Maathai and to understand who she was is by watching the Documentary Film called “Taking Root” directed by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater. It is a profoundly moving portrayal of Wangari Maathai’s life path and it will inspire you to do amazing things! www.takingrootfilm.com
To honor the work and memory of Wangari Maathai we have chosen twenty Organizations doing Earthshaking work in every continent on this Planet. We begin below with a brief overview of seven Organizations doing amazing work to protect environments and the creatures and people living in them. Please take a look at their websites, learn about them, join them, let them inspire you and you in turn can inspire many!
Sacred Land Film Project: California: www.sacredland.org
Sacred Land Film Project is one of the most stunning Organizations I have been introduced to in my search for those who are doing unique and powerful resistance work in defense of our Planet and its People. Their films, shorts and photographs are breathtakingly beautiful, as is the website they are housed in. You can watch their films by visiting the site and it’s guaranteed you will be deeply moved and inspired if you visit and view their work.
Mission Sacred Land Film Project produces a variety of media and educational materials — films, videos, DVDs, articles, photographs, school curricula materials and Web site content — to deepen public understanding of sacred places, indigenous cultures and environmental justice. Our mission is to use journalism, organizing and activism to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices.
“Traditional lands represent the greatest remaining sanctuaries of life on earth — the most unspoiled forests, mountains and grasslands — and constitute one-fifth of the earth’s land surface. With a deep understanding of the land’s importance to their physical, cultural and spiritual health, some 5,000 indigenous cultures work to protect their homelands against resource hungry corporations trying to commercialize and destroy these biological arks. Our fate will depend on how we understand and treat what is left of the planet’s abundance — its lands, waters, species diversity and people.” Paul Hawkin
The Xerces Foundation: Oregon: www.xerces.org
Beacon Community Food Forest: Washington: www.beaconfoodforest.weebly.com
“Our goal is to design, plant and grow an edible urban forest garden that inspires our community to gather together, grow our own food and rehabilitate our local ecosystem.”
350.org is perhaps the most important and powerful Organization addressing climate change in our time. Everyone reading this should be visiting their site. It is in the interest of us all.
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Our online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers in over 188 countries. We operate at a large scale to take on the world’s greatest challenge. In October of 2009 we coordinated 5200 simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called the ‘most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.’ On 10/10/10, we organized the “Global Work Party” — a day of climate solutions projects, from solar panel installations to community garden plantings–and changed communities from the bottom up with over 7000 events in 188 countries.
With over 4000 languages spoken around the world, words don’t always get the point across.To transcend the language barrier we made this wordless animation that explains 350.org in 90 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5kg1oOq9tY
Join The Roots To Resistance Movement in honoring 12 Global Women Activists: Raise Your Voice With Us: www.denisebeaudet.com