Moment of Peace: Journey to Forgivness by Namaya

Moment of Peace: Journey of Forgiveness

Dr.Namaya will speak on 6 September 2019 at the Center Congregational Chuch 193 Main Street, Brattleboro, Vt. at 5:30 PM for the Moment of Peace. The topic will be “Journey of Forgiveness.”  In this discussion, Namaya will draw from his writings, travels, and art work. Namaya is a poet, multimedia artist, and peace/ human rights activist who uses his art and writings to engage people on social justice and reconciliation.  In this Moment of Peace he will present poems, art, and stories on forgiveness and reconciliation. Namaya said, “I am not an expert on forgiveness and peace, but as a writer and artist, my task is to ask and engage people on these questions of peace building.”

His journeys and performances on peace and human rights have taken him around the world. In 2014, he created a performance residency at a former torture center Villa Grimaldi in Santiago, Chile, now a peace park where he created art, dance, and multimedia project, “Memoria. Hablar. Dignidad” with his Chilean collaborators on reconciliation. Other art and performance projects on Peace/ Social justice building have been created in Palestine, Algeria, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Belfast, Belfast Ireland, and through-out the USA with organizations like Fellowship of Reconciliation. With Zoe Kopp he founded a not-for-profit Grace Cares in 2000 that focuses on community development and peace building projects. In January 2020, Namaya will undertake an art/ writing residency near Hanoi, Vietnam entitled, Journey of Forgiveness.

“Namaya shares insights of a life spent on the political and religious margins, in conflict zones such as Israel, Palestine, Yemen, and North America. Most of all, as an artist and a public philosopher, he sees his work not as a static statement, but as a starting point for open and frank conversation — welcoming a dynamic exchange, with critics and supporters alike, in a collaborative forum to envision a just and peaceful world.” Ethan Vesely-Flad – Fellowship of Reconciliation

Namaya is Vietnam era veteran who has spent the decades since working on peace and international community development. With his B4 Peace team he works with peace building groups like Veterans for peace, International Network of Peace Museums and his poem 100 Flowers of Peace translated into 110 languages is on display at Peace centers worldwide.

In 2018 in New Orleans, Namaya had a retrospective art show called, “Pornography of War,” which was part of a community and international art show called “The Deadly Ambiguity of Guns.”  In 2019 he was in South Africa for several months, studying apartheid and reconciliation, and meeting with the heroes of the struggle for human rights. “I am awed and humbled by the courage of the non-violent resistance movement that overthrew apartheid. The courage to forgive is a greater strength than hate. The courage of these people from the children of Soweto who faced police dogs and bullets to oppose apartheid was astonishing.  Nelson Mandela after his imprisonment for twenty-seven years championed, spent his last years committed to forgiveness and reconciliation. How do we embrace and bring this courage of compassion and forgiveness in our lives?”

In January 2020 Namaya will undertake an art/ writing residence at New Space Art Center Hue, Vietnam on theme of “Journey of Forgiveness.”  “The Vietnam War claimed the lives of over two million Vietnamese and generations subsequently has suffered the horrific consequence of Agent Orange, and even today landmine and other ordinance still maim and kill people. “For my generation, both veterans and civilians, intentionally or otherwise, we were profoundly shaped by this war. I have been awed by the courage of those who opposed the war and even more awed by those who found the courage to forgive.” 

His book Thirst: A Novella of redemption explores this theme of forgiveness with the allegorical tale of a 14th Century grave-robber who is chained to a dog and spends the next four hundred years wandering battlefields tending the wounded and dying. In the book Journal of the Plague: Living and working with AIDS a memoir of the earliest days of AIDS, when Namaya was a nurse working on an end-stage AIDS ward at a VA hospital in NYC, the theme of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace are the major motifs. In the most recent book, Celebrate Life: Viva la Vida, he explores learning to forgive family and ourselves. As Namaya asked in his poem “Light a Candle of Forgiveness” which was published in Friends Journal.

How do we love that which

we find

the most odious,

detestable,

and repulsive?

How do we find

our way back to love?

Namaya said, “As I was invited to speak on this Moment of Peace, I began to reflect on one of one of the major tenets of my writing, art and performance and community projects is the theme of forgiveness  as an integral component to peace building.”

 “Namaya’s art subject goes straight to the danger zone and it is what is needed in our moment. In going to our collective underworld, it honors our humanity and foibles. The direct imagery, actual charged objects and his availability to participate in dialog about war and peace creates a safe place to bring matters out from the darkness, which is exciting and refreshing.” Alison Beth Levy, Independent Art CuratoC

Contrition on Robben Island: How does humanity endure?

Robben Island, in the harbor of

Cape Town, seared in the memory

of humanity as Mandela’s prison.

Thousands tortured in prison,

to a sentence without end,

We labored from dawn till night,

in limestone quarries that blinded us

with the acidic burning.

2.

Dutch and Portuguese

killed the Natives, and those who

survived became slaves.

Then came the Leper colony

and the Insane Asylum.

The diseased and mad together

on this unholy sanatorium.

Robben Island, in Cape Town

harbor, where once ships

sought refuge from storms

and taking the prisoners to this

         island hell.

Waves rolled and

rocked the ships.

Almost like a mother

rocking a new baby.

Almost like a ship

carrying the children

to the promised land.

Almost like Charon

ferrying the dead

to freedom.

Wade in the water!

Wade in the water!

This Middle Passage

in Cape Town harbor.

As the prison ship

sailed — leaving family, friends,

and native land… .

Where was hope? 

2. The Prisoner said,

“I come back here now

to where I was caged,

a cell as wide

as my outstretched arms

A bucket to pee and shit in.

A filthy rag to sleep on,

a barren cell with a tiny

barred window to the sky.

I have come back here,

but the smells are too clean.

Then, this prison

reeked of sweat,

and the stench

of unwashed bodies

and fear.

Afrikaan guards,

uneducated brutes,

from the lowest rung

called out

Kaffir

boy

Nigger

you.

Every day from

sunrise to sunset

breaking limestones

with other prisoners.

110 or more in the broiling sun,

some days hotter.

My eyes burned from

sun and limestone.

My soul burned

with rage.

My crime was

was calling for

freedom,

to live as free people

in our own land.”

3.

Who Guards the

soul of the prison guards?

The Good Shepherd church

built by lepers. On Sundays

White guards and their families prayed.

When seagulls soared

and swooped to feast

could a legion of them

carry those soiled prayers to heaven?

On the Sabbath was the word

contrition or compassion spoken?

4.

Humanity at Robben Island

How could one’s humanity

            endure?

How could the brilliant

            light of a soul survive?

How could one utter

            the prayers of faith

and bow their head to Christ?

Every reason for

            a god of mercy and justice denied.

How did Mandela and the other men

            keep their sanity and souls alive?

How did their humanity

            endure?

Namaya Feb 2019 Robben Island, ZA.

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