Welcome to my first blog post on “Journey to Forgiveness.” I, Namaya, have been invited to Vietnam to undertake an art residency at the New Space Arts Foundation to do an art/writing/ photography residency entitled “Journey to Forgiveness”. With my creative partner, Zoe Kopp, we will spend the beginning of January exploring Vietnam and considering the impact of the “Vietnam War of Independence” that ended in 1975. However, the affects of the war, both the personal trauma and the on-going ecological impact has continued. Some 400,000 deaths have been reported related to Agent Orange, the herbicide that was sprayed in Vietnam during the war, that caused horrific damages. To this day there are children born long after the war with birth defects due to Agent Orange. There are still unexploded ordinances that cause injuries and fatalities more than forty years after the war. During this Vietnam/French/ American War that had continued in one form or another from the 1940’s to 1975, it is estimated that two million Vietnamese were killed. Also, 55,000 French soldiers and 58,222 US American soldiers were killed.
The events in Vietnam in 20th century deeply affected and changed me. Therefore, I am undertaking this art and multimedia project called “Journey to Forgiveness”. During the first few weeks of January we will be traveling throughout Vietnam. We will interview people who have memories of those years of the Vietnam War – the “war of liberation” as well as the younger generations. This is a continuation of my writing and art on the subject of forgiveness. At the end of the residency I will be offering a presentation in music, poetry, photography, and art on the theme of forgiveness at the New Space Arts Foundation in Hue. The presentation will have community involvement and be focused on being a healing experience.
We underscore our goal is to listen and observe with respect and sensitivity to the people of Vietnam. Even though the war officially ended forty five years ago, the scars and trauma of the war persist. As a US American I am keenly aware of how the USA has engaged in wars and colonialism over its two hundred year history. The USA’s war in Vietnam and the its support for French colonialism is one of the most egregious and shameful episodies in our history
I am a 65-year-old US Navy hospital corpsman 1972-1974, a Veteran for Peace, a former Peace Corp Volunteer, poet and multimedia artist. Though I had no direct experience with combat, living through the war years and subsequently working with veterans and peace groups has had a profound influence on me. As a result of my two years of service in the Navy, I became a pacifist.
I have spent these past decades engaged in the conversation about peace building through arts, writing and performance. I have spent many years working on the themes of peace and human rights. Vietnam has profoundly impacted all Americans, especially the baby boomer generation that grew up during that time and their children. This war affected all of us, though its impact on Americans cannot even come close to the impact it had directly on the people of Vietnam. My wish is that during this brief visit to Vietnam, by working on this theme of forgiveness, I can begin to understand how this process of healing has or has not transpired since the end of the war.
It is my intention upon my return to the USA and Europe to present this art, photography, and writing in public presentations. It is also part of my on-going multiyear work: Pornography of War: The Impact of Militarism in Society.
“PALM SUNDAY in Our Quest for Humanity”
1. “Palm Sunday Belfast” April 2017
Church bells gloriously peel in Belfast.
Joyfully, Jesus home to Jerusalem.
To the holy city of peace, he brought
the enduring message of – Love.
Beyond creed and ideology,
The faith of – One Humanity.
Now nineteen years of peace
The Easter Accordsealed in blood.
Our fields of barley and rye
Are anointed with tears.
Our children and kin buried
In those troubled times.
Church bells peel, hallelujah!
We fold our hands to prayer.
We shake hands with neighbors.
After church, we raise a glass of Guinness,
To bitter and fragile memories,
Stout dark pools of time.
Church bells herald deliverance
From the horror and loss of war.
Angelic Belfast April morning
Spring’s light pierces pewter gray clouds!
Today, too much of the world in pain,
Us and them – Hate and fear- war.
Palm Sunday’s morning promise
Is of forgiveness, mightier than hate.
As love leads us home
To an enduring peace.
2. “Cross of our Humanity: Coptic Church Alexandria”
Palm Sunday, in Belfast, we ring the bells
To celebrate our deliverance from sectarian violence.
Our country torn apart by hate, poverty, and ignorance.
We killed each other in the name of God and love.
We denied our humanity and will to reason,
We became the vultures of hate and fear.
Torn apart by madness.
We had forgotten the will to Love other,
To love not just our kin, but our neighbors.
Brothers and sisters of the Coptic faith,
We in Derry and Belfast intimately know your pain.
Beyond insanity, is the killing of innocents,
This killing of innocents is the rape of humanity.
Even Allah and the prophet Mohammed would weep
At this shame, Haram, the religious forbidden,
Haram, the religious forbidden, so vile that even
God would find it difficult to forgive.
3. “Bitter Harvest in a Land of Refuge”
Sweden, land of tolerance and refuge,
Land of peace, welcome, and freedom.
One madman driven by his demons
Drove a truck into a crowd and killed.
Sweden didn’t burn down mosques,
They brought flowers and prayers to witness.
The words of love, hope, and unity
Ring throughout the land.
4. Palm Sunday Syria
Ancient church from the time of Christ
In Damascus, Christians quietly pray.
Church bells silent, as the words of
The prophet are spoken:
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are the poor
Blessed are the peacemakers
In Syria humanity is devouring itself,
No longer one of faith or ideology
It is the rabid dog devouring itself,
Twirling about in a spiral of insanity.
While families of all faith gather to pray,
A common prayer for reason and tolerance.
5. Redemption and love
Which do we choose?
Hate or love?
6. Home Humanity?