Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) is an annual summer programme run by the Centre of Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA. The programme brings peacebuilders and community activists from all around the world together for six weeks of intense training and learning.
2017 saw over 300 participants attend, and I was privileged enough to be part of the staff team this year.
CJP encourages experiential and holistic teaching and learning mechanisms and the power of arts for social transformation and healing is truly embraced.
This multi-media woven screen was an accumulative art project that grew and developed throughout the duration of SPI. During the closing ceremony for each session, and other informal gatherings, participants were invited to contribute to the woven screen by weaving in wool, string, fabric and natural materials. The physical process of weaving was designed to enable participants to reflect upon their time and experiences at SPI. Either by being intentional with their thoughts as they wove; or by recording thoughts, reflections and anticipations for next steps and future journeys onto strips of paper which were then also woven into the screen. All materials used were either sourced from the local natural environment or from nearby second hand stores.
The physical and repetitive act of weaving can be therapeutic in itself, keeping the body active whilst freeing the mind to think and reflect. The scale of the screen meant that weaving involved physical movement back and forth, from one end of the screen to the other. This repetitive movement, like labyrinth walking and pacing, has therapeutic qualities in its ability to connect the brain with the body.
The end result is a screen of multiple individuals' contemplations, reflections and anticipations; which combined, creates a screen of woven narratives and shared stories.