A response to Lisa Schirch's
"Pax Bellissima" Art Show

Speeches introducing "The Below and the Beyond" Art Show 
SPI 2013 Opening Day (5th May)

General Introduction
Wore Ndiaye

Wore Ndiaye
Dear SPI Community, my name is Wore Ndiaye. My Dear friend Yago Abeledo and I are both students at CJP, the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding and we were honoured to partner with Research Faculty, Doctor Lisa Schirch, in order to present to you the exposition that most of you have seen  earlier today at the Margaret Gehman gallery titled “The beyond and the Below”.

This exhibit is part of CJP’s effort to incorporate the Arts and the Media in the peacebuilding field as engaged pedagogy. It all started when some of us students took Paulette Moore’s Art and Media class last Fall. What was amazing about the class was being able to incorporate texts from writers such as Paulo Freire, Suzi Gablik, Bell Hooks and few others. As part of the process, we participated in Dr Lisa Schirch’s exhibit called “Pax Bellissima” and also contributed to the blog that was created for that show. Our group also got involved in the show by creating a Rumi Tree on which visitors would pin laments that they would write on leaves.

The Rumi Tree

As a response to Pax Bellissima, we envisioned a show that would incorporate our own skills. We decided to use some of the cathartic paintings that Yago had done last year while he was on a sabbatical in Ireland after he spent 14 years in Africa. That was a moment for him to face certain parts of his life and to reflect on his own journey. As a writer, I wrote the texts that accompany the paintings while we asked Doctor  Shirch to bring some of her pottery.
That is how we came up with “The Beyond and the Below”. In this show, we are bringing about three different backgrounds, experiences, denominational faiths, (Yago is a Catholic priest, Dr Shicrh is an Anabaptist Mennonite and I am Muslim); three different continents together (Europe-Yago is from Spain; America –in light of Dr Schirch, and Africa-I am from Senegal) on one common platform: Peacebuilding and Arts.

And with this exhibit, we wanted to touch a few points:
First, we thought important to engage our right brains in peacebuilding. Talking about the right brain and peacebuilding, David Kreider referred to the book: A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future, in which Daniel Pink would argue that we are undergoing a“seismic social developmental shift” - from an Information Age that relies primarily on our faculties of logic, analysis, and knowledge, to a Conceptual Age built around empathy, joyfulness, design, and meaning. The skills demanded of our children in this changing world, he says, are six aptitudes we engage in our right brain - design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. And David Kreider would add: “As I read what he meant by these I was struck that these were the arts of peacebuilding. “For Pink and the scientists,” he cites, “this domain of the right brain is the part of us that perceives the patterns and the bigger picture and that gets the meaning in our stories, that reads “between the lines,” that understands and interprets the nonverbal cues in our faces and bodies, and enables us to empathize with each other. This is the part of us that can imagine new futures that transcend our differences, which can find harmonies and recompose them into new symphonies of coexistence." So basically what we are trying to do here with this show is get us all to use our right brain.
We are wondering, in which way we are sometimes failing at analyzing a conflict whether at home, at work or in our tumultuous state affairs, because we are not engaging our right brains fully?

Another thing we were trying to do with this show was to invite all of us to undergo a personal reflection and process who we are as peacebuilders. And think about this: How do we process conflict when we are in the middle of it? Where do we get our balance from? How do we gain stillness? And most importantly, how do we find a way to deal with conflict while still staying one? How do we reconcile the “I” and the “Me” that both make who we are? So while you are here at SPI, we invite you to engage with this process. This is not an exposition like a museum where you just observe and distance yourself. We want you to engage in the process.

The gallery will be open every day. Feel free to go in there, lift up Doctor Schirch’s pottery, look at the laments that are on the bottom of each piece. Read the texts that accompany Yago’s paintings and think about how the paintings and the messages resonate with your own lives. Make it a point to meditate through the beautiful music that is playing in the background.

There is a book on one of the tables, use it to add your own laments. While you are here, we would love for the gallery to be a room to process your own experience to make sense of your own lives and to lament. As you are walking out of that room, we would want you to think about how you can contribute to this Art while you are here at SPI.

Before you got here, you were asked to bring a piece of fabric from your own country. This next Wednesday we are welcoming you to join us at the gallery for an Art frontier. Some faculty members will be joining us in the process and together, we shall weave those fabrics to bring together our cultures. If you have used any form of Art in the past, we would want you to share it with us. If you have not, you are more than welcome to think about how what we will be doing here during your stay can inspire you to use engaged pedagogy in your line of work.

Finally, Yago and I worked on a presentation that will give you a visual idea of what we just talked about. We hope that you will enjoy it. But do remember in the midst of all this to ask yourselves this question: Who are you as a peacebuilder? And how do you deconstruct and reconstruct in the here and the now?

Thank you.

Journeying towards "PAX BELLISSIMA"
Yago Abeledo, M.Afr.

Yago Abeledo
Good Morning! In few words I would like to introduce you to our SPI 2013 Art Show called “The below and the beyond.”

This Art Show primarily is a response from our Media, Arts and Peacebuilding Class to Lisa Schirch fall semester Art Show Pax Bellissima. We accompanied Lisa in her journey of lamenting and processing many years of hard work in the peacebuilding field. We were exposed to the importance of art as a tool to express and to dialogue with the intangible that we carry deep within us.

Our response to “Pax Bellissima’ (the Beauty of Peace) is what John Paul Lederach calls “the below and the beyond.” We believe that peace resides and waits for us in the realms of the below and the beyond. It is the land of our deepest humanity (where our dignity resides) and the final mystery of who we are (the transcendence).  

We believe that, as peacebuilders, we are called to look inwards, to the below. As Daniel Siegel says: “We must look inwards to know our own internal world before we can map clearly the internal state and the mind of the other” and we will add, the internal state of the world. Because as Arnold Mindell says: “The inner self, relationships and the world are all aspects of the same community process.” Lederach says that “the below refers to something that goes deeper and penetrates under the surface of the technical layer of peacebuilding. He says that rather consistently I have found that when you have a real connection with people, when you get to the below, you touch something deeply connected to, or reconnected with a basic and shared sense of humanity. Simultaneously I experience this as connected to something transcendent. This holds a paradoxical quality: Those things that are the most transcendent are also those things that reconnect us with being human.”

During last semester “Contemplative Photography” course we talk about the importance of becoming aware of our believes and assumptions as we insert ourselves into the conflict. “Frame is the game”. Let us be aware of the way we frame things, the tools we use to analyse, the lenses through which we look at the conflict…. The “below and the beyond” invite us to expand endlessly the frame of our intervention. When analysing a conflict we are called to expand our traditional systemic levels of analysis (micro, meso and macro), integrating the intra (below) and the cosmic (beyond). It is in the below and the beyond where the intangible (90% of the reality) operates. We are invited to open our eyes to the mystery that resides everywhere and call us for constant improvisation. We believe that peacebuilding takes all who we are. Peacebuilding is a vocation.

This Art Show dialogues with Lederach’s book “The Moral Imagination.” He says that there is a key question that, at every step of the way, peacebuilding must forcibly face. And the question is this: How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?” We propose that deconstructing and embracing internalized oppression becomes fundamental in transcending violence. It is the challenging journey of the “below and the beyond” that will give us the inner “secure base” for “dancing” in the middle of conflict.

In this search Lederach invites us to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies (as we acknowledge first the internalized enemy deep within). In the very mystery of conflict we are called to see their dignity. Lisa asked herself reflecting on “Pax Bellissima”: “What if everything and everyone we saw wore a halo. Would this change how we relate? What if when we look at the world, we use a peacebuilding approach of appreciative inquiry – looking for the local capacities for peace, the good that exists, the strengths and the beauty?” This Halo is very much present in all the paintings of our response “The below and the beyond”. At the same time, Lederach invites us to develop the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity. For that to happen becomes fundamental to believe in our potential as creators and to accept the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the far too familiar landscape of violence. All the paintings of our response are stepping into the mystery of the unknown within.

Finally Lederach invites us to explore in two broad directions:

First, we must understand and feel the landscape of protracted violence. We believe that this landscape includes first our inner worlds where very often internalized oppression hides in the intangible of who we are. So we must set our feet deeply into the geographies and realities of what internalized oppression and destructive relationships produce, what legacies they leave, and what breaking their violent patterns will require.

Second, we must explore the creative process itself as a wellspring that feeds the building of peace. We must venture into the mostly uncharted territory of the artist’s way as applied to personal and social change. These paintings are “about the survival of the artist’s genius and gift in the lands of violence.” (Lederach) We acknowledge that, in the end, the artist never “does” art, s/he is the space through which art manifests. It is through the below that the artist allows the beyond to manifest. It is the journey form complexity to simplicity; from rejection to embrace; from absence to quality of presence; from chaos to “pax bellissima.”

In this art show we are inviting you to engage, to re-imagine yourself as you are taken by the paintings, pottery and writings. We wish you a joyful, liberating and reflective stay at this Summer Peacebuilding Institute.



Paintings: Yago Abeledo
Writings: Wore Ndiaye
Pottery: Lisa Schirch


Processing a Continent

Africa, continent of paradoxes.
You are the place of Chaos and poverty, terrible wars and unspeakable atrocities.
You do not cease to surprise with the charm of your green And the majesty of your hills,
The beauty of your queens and the hospitality of your people.
Africa, the paradoxical continent,
Where pain and joy mix
Like bread and butter, honey and tea.
Africa, the continent of strength,
Held by the resilience of women
Who would not give up their land
For the love of their continent
And their dreams for their children.
Ah the bottom-up chaos below and beyond!
Oh Africa, my land!
Though Chaotic, you are full of energy.
You embody pride, joy and dignity.
It is in you that fit all the virtues of humanity.
Your land carries the fluidity of friendship.
You are the sphinx of promise.
The era of the triangular commerce came and went;
Then you gracefully received the time of colonization,
And burped the milk of Devaluation,
And as if you were not yet exhausted to be stripped away from all that you are, you keep standing strong and bold on the map of the world.
Oh Energetic Africa, you remind me of the grace of Nandi,
Tall and strong even in your old days, you still transmit the energy of vivacity.
Colorful and vivacious, you are all that we are.


Servant Leadership in Peacebuilding

The peacebuilder is a man of service.
Just like the sun, he radiates service and availability, exuberance and generosity.
The peacebuilder is prominent .
He serves, he gives
Time, Money, Resources, Knowledge, Being.
He shares what he knows best
Because serving is all that is his.
Everything emerges from oneness.
From the centre burgeons variety, chaos, stillness.
As the centre is the heart of multiple intelligences,
 Different identities that we must embrace and make ours. We are rich with our different selves
Which strengthen us while empowering others
And nurtures the dimensions of who we are,
The different poles that make the peacebuilder
A natural servant.
A servant for all of Nas,
The Nas of Mankind.


From Complexity to Simplicity

The Journey through peacebuilding is complex.
It is filled with diversity and controversy.
It is tumultuous and tortuous.
But it is that complexity that makes it what it is.
Torn apart, the heart opens its sorrow.
Confusion and exhaustion spill from the mind of the individual,
But in the midst of it all lay endless possibilities.
It is the calm and quiet that surround nature after a storm
Or after a cyclone has taken over, rumbling everything that already was.
That center is the peace that the peacebuilder seeks in conflict zones. It is also the peace within after one has found their way.
To reach the level within, one must undergo transformation.
It is the complexity that gives it its sweetness.
When life is harsh and difficult,
The peacebuilder is invited to remember
That after the rain comes the rainbow.


The Peacebuilder from Within

Transforming conflict requires concentration.
Concentration asks for stillness.
Stillness is the peace within that holds the moment.
Stillness holds purity,
Truth and love
The here and the now.
It is in stillness that the peacebuilder finds the solution to the eternal.
Once we are able to deconstruct, untie, process all that we carry, then we are able to reach universal field.
We carry that stillness in the middle of conflict.
There whispers Lederach in “The Moral Imagination”: How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?
Inner stillness must be created. It is the place of mysticism, of creativity, of oneness, of life.
It is the garden of secrets and of mourning.
Inner stillness is the field where the “I” and the ‘Me” Merge to find peace.
It is only when the peacebuilder has successfully
Conquered his inner stillness that he can finally
Deal the conflict he finds in the field.


Immortal Diamond in Peacebuilding

As hard as it may be, as unrealistic as it may seem, conflict is a present.
A present is a gift that forces the peacebuilder to focus in the now.
The present is what is.
The present is what must be.
The present is the space, the time, the moment.
The moment to unpack what must unfold.
Conflict is the mud through which lives the flower,
The Bottom of the water where blossoms the lotus,
The stack of stones where hides the rough diamond,
With its imperfections and its sparkle.
Glowing in the eyes of discovery,
The immortal diamond is the true self we carry within ourselves and to the conflict.
Peacebuilding is part of life. It is a way of life.
One can never grasp the below and the beyond in a conflict if one does not filter himself though the pain.
And when all is done, he becomes the jewel
The diamond that has been shaped and polished
To live in the Here and the Now.


The Peacebuilder: A Birth Giver

The peacebuilder is constantly going through a process of evolution.
He is on the path of creation.
He creates through his actions, his thoughts, his being.
He brings about change,
Down Below, the peacebuilder pushes his hopes
Through his guts.
Out he gives birth to the realm of the field,
Where he lays his knowledge and tools out to the world.
Just like the mother gives birth to her child
The peacebuilder brings to the world a baby
Clothed with framework,
Analyzed in the laboratory of theories
Baby theories come to life
Washed through lenses of hope.
Hope that the new comer will bring about change.


Consciousness Imbedded in Nature

Nature is more than a mother,
It is a daughter.
The daughter we must leave a legacy to.
Grabbing his brushes as his tools,
In partnership with nature,
The Peacebuilder paints the world
With the connivance of the mystery of Mother Nature
And the elegance of the Universe.
And so we listen to the sound of the trees,
The voice of the river
And the froufrou of the branches;
And so we listen to our awareness
Which boils in deep hot water
To be. Just to Be!
Everything is a work of life.
Sensitivity is crucial, as it is through it that
I am creation, I am nature.
Rooted, Grounded, I am in connection with the source.
I am in harmony with what is.
At last, at last, we are One.


Fracture to Pax Bellissima

The Peacebuilder is always in search.
In search of a ray of light
Through which beauty sights
To enlighten those who seek and those who know,
That a day will come when our work will prevail.
Mindfulness in the midst of conflict
Is in it all what we seek.
Our vulnerability, mistakes and pain
Are the cracks that poke through the pot
The cracks through which travels the light,
Without the cracks there would be no light,
The luminosity of the path that now knows how to breathe.
It is the cracks that allow light to come out
Letting the positive energy merge through possibility.
And right there in the middle of conflict,
Points a ray of light.
The light of hope.


The Peacebuilder: A Wounded Healer

Wounded by words...
Wounded by joy...
Wounded by day,
Wounded by night...
We carry our wound deep within
While holding the cream that heals.
From victim to survivor to wounded healer,
We become the eternal consciousness.
With humility, we recognize our own journey.
Facing our own cultural contest,
We embrace the victim within
To make peace with our deepest identity.
In our humanity, we are wounded and healed.
Through our Wounds, we heal the wounds of others.
Now that we have gone through it,
We are able to understand our intervention through the conflict
And can help others go through their own journey.
Faith cuts right through it, giving us the strength to engage the wound of humanity.


The Peacebuilder: A Shepherd of Clay

Filled with hope, sorrow and uncertainty,
The peacebuilder carries the energy
That speaks for the world.
He is the ion that travels from one generation to another, One legacy to the next.
Vulnerable, he carries his fragility through the conflict.
He is the atom that balances the Ying and the Yang.
He is the one leading clan,
Herding a flock of birds
Patiently following the traces of the promise
Which dazzles the world with its significance.
From International Relations to Conflict Resolution,
Transformation comes about through his work
Sure to make a difference
In the eyes of those who have been for decades and centuries awaiting for their turn to come, so they can taste the smell of Peace, Freedom, Justice and Equality.      


Metabolizing Pain through Pottery

There are many social functions of art that support active peacebuilding.   In my art exhibit Pax Bellissima, I advocated for the reflective arts that create space for subconscious reflection, healing and strategizing.  

On a wheel, I spin clay into round walls that hold my laments. I carve the names of my prayers on the bottom of the pot, and ask it to hold my grief, my lament.

Western cultures do not have many ways to lament.. We experience “burn out” – mental and physical exhaustion – or “burn in” when our minds trap painful images and experiences.

The reflective arts metabolize dilemma and trauma, breaking it into digestible pieces. The reflective arts help reach the below and beyond described by John Paul Lederach.


With these three pieces of pottery, I lament the loss of colleagues who died while pursuing human security – a new security paradigm that focuses on the safety of people rather than the national interests of states.

I lament the loss of my colleague Javaid Akhtar, Director of Just Peace Initiatives in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Javaid was assassinated in October 2011 while carrying out his work for peace.

I lament the loss of Shannon Beebe, who was my closest colleague in the Pentagon and author of an important book on Human Security critiquing the US War on Terror.  Shannon died when a plane he was flying mysteriously crashed in August 2011.

I lament the loss of United Nations workers around the world, who attempt to provide an impartial space and hold together diverse voices to help find a solution to local problems.


There are many social functions of art that support active peacebuilding. In my art exhibit Pax Bellissima, I advocated for the reflective arts that create space for subconscious reflection, healing and strategizing.  

On a wheel, I spin clay into round walls that hold my laments. I carve the names of my prayers on the bottom of the pot, and ask it to hold my grief, my lament.

Western cultures do not have many ways to lament. We experience “burn out” – mental and physical exhaustion – or “burn in” when our minds trap painful images and experiences.

The reflective arts metabolize dilemma and trauma, breaking it into digestible pieces.  The reflective arts help reach the below and beyond described by John Paul Lederach.


With these three pieces of pottery, I lament the destruction of the rainforests and the loss of wildlife as human consumption and greed displace the rights and needs of other parts of Creation. 

Lisa Schirch