It strikes me as hard and simple to express my emotions and general perspective of participating in the Open Festival 2018. I'm actively still trying to digest and marinade the experiences shared and those that I desire post-conference; and how that fits into my existing practice and my desires to work with others.
Firstly, finding the network approximately a year ago brought me a sense of solace and arb belonging as I learnt about the overarching aims of Edgeryders and learnt about its membership through the stories shared. I believe in the power of storytelling and that every single person has the capacity to tell and share their story, if desired. This, for me, was monumental as I've actively resigned from my job as a project manager and researcher in the context of Public Engagement and Safety in South Africa. I actively chose not to pursue yet another job title that robs both me and the communities I work with of agency, creativity and any semblance of freedom. Yet, this elusive and imaginary network remained some steps away from me, not nearly close enough to actively engage with. Until the Festival! Bear with me here...
Secondly, learning about the upcoming Open Festival 2017 ignited a spark. "What if I could be in the presence of this community of likeminded souls who have a desire to create for a greater meaning and desire to contribute toward life, community and transformation from varying angles... What if Nabeel.... What if?"__. This network may not be as elusive as I imagined. And this may be my chance to derail myself from my current trajectory...It was in that moment that I decided to find a way to be in London a day before the Festival in Brussels, so that I could attend. Bear in mind I'm from South Africa and after being unemployed for that long, I had no disposable income after selling my belongings for a cause. Being unemployed did not mean being inactive. I sold my belongings to test an approach that struck me as important in the context of urban poor and public health. So how does this connect to my experience, you ask? Well finally I'd be in the presence of others that value what I value...possibly?
So arriving in Brussels on day 1 of the festival while the initial presentation commenced, I looked around the room as I tiptoed to a space to let down my hair, remove my stinky jacket after being on a train station at 4am in London, drop my backpack and accept that I've finally arrived in a space that may just change the trajectory of my life, perhaps for a short period or perhaps forever... Fundamentally, my gut told me "Ok you're in a space with a bunch of urban hippies, much like yourself." Internalizing the space and the interaction of participants with presenters and myself made me smile, laugh, and in an arb way validified my own work and meaning-making which is basically an undefined social transformative process based on interaction and collaborations with varied parties for a common goal. Immediately, I realised that my own work mirrored the [un]conference and my excitement increased! Until the cooking began, and I needed to focus. Cooking for 100 persons is not joke, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun and contributed to my learning and my experience.
Naturally I was struck by the transparent means in which the company and Festival was managed. I was then immediately struck by an "openness" not only in reference to work and data, but in reference to the genorisity of expression and interest displayed by every single participant. More so I was struck by this very dense almost tangible and contagious feeling that enveloped the venue of collaboration, contribution and sharing. I've missed this and currently miss it. Needless to say the most energetic and re-assuring feeling was meeting others who believe in a collective cause, themselves and the network itself. I was given care, simply by being involved. And John Coates words echo in my mind's heart as I write this...
"I wanted to be more like them and learn more, more than wanting to be the same"
This, for me sums up my emotions and professional desires since being introduced to the network. This inherent connection between participants was and is phenomenal. All of us, without speaking about it, appears to have been guided by similar principles, ideals and beliefs on community, collaboration and sharing. It's what brought us together and what I believe will maintain us as a collective. And I keep imagining the beauty that would be created if we were present in the same venue for a prolonged period of time. For now, that venue is the www.edgeryders.eu .
I kept thinking that the calibre of persons in the venue are such, that if any of us were asked to pack a bag in order to directly contribute to a great good...that it's probable that all of us have done so before and if asked we would do it again.
Now, that I'm back in South Africa this sense of belonging is mildly diluted. I, for one, will actively strive for ways in which our skills and resources could be pooled together for collaborative proposal writing. No single person should own projects. These relationships and our collective efforts and works has the inherent capacity to elevate and extend our impact in so many directions to so many persons. So although the sense of belonging is diluted, it does not undermine the sense of "family" I've felt and continue to feel. And I can foresee that I will be stepping out of my comfort zone into this familial space whenever asked.
"I am because we are"...
One thing that baffles me is the meaning of the little Angel (literally) lying my drawer (Caring Through Uselessness 2017). I very much treat it as a reminder that unknowingly this community is where I've come from, and this Angel is a reminder for me to return when needed!
I am completely grateful for the conversations, interactions, guidance, laughs, giggles, conversations and drinks shared! Thank you to one and all!