Saturday, November 15, 2014

Oasis Game, Warriors of the Heart

Last post has been ages ago. In between we moved house and our daily routine collapsed.
That's fine with me. I did some sketching but had no ways to be online, which was not bad at all. I'll post them later.

Last week a youth organization from Chitungwiza organized a game. It is called the Oasis Game, and it aims at engaging communities to make changes that matter, with the resources they have.
In contexts were people expect the government or NGOs or donors or the prince charming, or a psy to solve one's problem, the game brings people to speak about their dreams, and challenge them to make them come alive.
Chitungwiza is a populated town on the outskird of Harare. Probably the second most populated city in the country. Not really a residential town, a bit like Joburg's Soweto or Alexandra. People dream of water, playgrounds for kids, less potholes, refuse collection, electricity... Nothing fancy. Most of things we consider as a right, then hold someone else responsible for it. When that body is not fulfilling its responsability then what? You can wait, you can be frustrated and angry, or you can make changes happening at your level.
The game was held and facilitated by the youth from the leadership program of Kufunda, coached by four south african Warriors of the heart (Kufunda's website / or the Warrior of the heart website  here). The Oasis game last for a long time, in this case it was shrinked to a week, so that the facilitators can listen to dreams, harvest them and build moments of celebration and action.
I had the opportunity to "crash" the game in the middle, last tuesday.
I invited a friend from Mozambique who heads an NGO focusing on community-empowerment and who asked me to help him designing a new project on youth participation. So instead of doing the job, I thought that it could be good for him to see alternative ways of working, based on participation, collective leadership and focusing on positive change.
We accompanied the facilitators during the day. As a white man in an environment where stereotypes are strong, I kinda thought sketching was the perfect way to pay attention and do something that is not expected of me. Perfect.
This is the short story of the day. 

From early morning, the team worked on harvesting the infos gathered during the last days. They build a tree whose leaves were dreams of the people, and made lists of citizen with talents: a gogo who can sew, a young slam poet, a group playing marimbas, schoolkids that can dance on the latest zim dancehall tunes and many others. 
From there, they organized a gathering, to promote talents and share the dreams.

No one ca have a party without guests. 
So, back to the community, talking to people, telling them, "hey, at two today we are inviting you to come for a talent show, how cool is that?"
They were all speaking Shona, words I do not understand, so they might have said something different or better, but I don't have any clues about that.
They just went to the people, spend the time needed to have a chat, and send invites. They dodged conflictual confrontations (if you pronounce the word change here, people think that you talk politics and are from the opposition. And people remember that it is not always a good thing to be associated with that), frustrated young men, drunks, people frustrated and asking for things to come. My two yellow leaders were doing well. Here they are at the market, chatting to a nail and screw seller. The guy in red came from another conversation. He was angry. Graduated but no jobs. 

After a couple of hours in the blaring sun talking to people, it's back to the meeting point, making a hell of a noise and cheering. the three ladies above were walking holding each other in front of me, was kinda difficult to sketch and walk, but they were really beautifull and to me summarized the spirit of the day.
Then the show started. As often, the first curious heads are the kids, so a kid dance was launched. Two steps to the right two to the left, turn and clap.
Lots of fun, more noise, and more people coming.


When the tent put for the shade was overflowing, four kufundis stepped up on stage. There was no real stage... but, as my 4 year old says, it is a pretend-stage. I got to be backstage (whichin a no-stage situation is an bit of a snag).
They started to sing something that must have been a welcoming song.
They definitly did not sing any fuck you bitch or You're beautifull type of tunes, people were not twerking neither, the public was happy, laughing and clapping, which is a good sign.
Positive vibes.  

From there, many young people came and showed their talents.
It was Chitungwiza got talent, without any judges - probably because there is no starbuck coffee or fresh diet zero coke available here, so why bother with a judge if not to display an add? Maybe next time we'll ask Chicken Inn (100% zim taste we luv), Irvine (feeding my family for the last 30 years) or Econet (You don't need a friend you need a buddy) and Chitungwiza got talent will have 4 judges eating chicken and waiting endlessly for their call go through the busy network.

It was cool.
But then I had to leave, to attend a meeting I ended up missing, so I went for pizza that took an hour and a half to get and got to chat with an art student who was also waiting for an hour and a half and who never saw a sketchbook.
When I got my hawaian pizza (a kids favourite) and got home, the children were Shrekked out and ate like donkey. I took a bath and coloured the sketches.
Cool day, cool people.
Thanks Aurther, Richard, Irvine and therest of the Kafundis for the day and having me with you.