Friday, 13 September 2013

How Do We Peace for Peace?

Peace Flag House: exploring how to make peace a verb.

Peace for Peace. Fabulous idea! do we do it?  If peace is a verb, what does 'peacing' look like?

Fighting and waring in the name of peace are practices we have plenty of direction on and excessive examples of: military training, history of war, embedded media, mainstream entertainment, even the nose-to-nose, screaming road rage I witnessed on my street last night.  There are textbooks on torture and schools of war where we pour our public money.  Currently the western world is debating adding another story to our long list of examples: invading, bombing or 'striking' Syria in the name of peace.

Directions on and examples of how to peace for peace appear to be an endangered species.  While I can name a handful of individuals who made peace a verb (Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Wangari Maathai), no academies, handbooks or movies come to mind on how to actively peace.  Peacing doesn't appear to be a popular topic.

I think making peace a verb lands somewhere between meditate and activate.  At Peace Flag House we're working on discovering the many different ways of peacing and I hope to explore these different avenues in up-coming posts.  Today let's talk about a peaceful practice that is bubbling around Peace Flag House this week: Craftivism and Yarn Bombing.

From the Blog LabKultur
Craft + Activism = Craftivism.

Clever, eh?

According to Betty Greer, author of Knitting for Good and the blog Craftivism, "Craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite."

Oh, delicious.

I see craftivism as a creative re-framing of our collective spaces that uses the handicrafts our grandmothers have taught us.  It is a collective process, a dialogue about the world we have and the world we want.  It combines the mediation of handicrafts with the action of street art.  It challenges our status quo ideas with new avenues of conceptualization; we are asked by craftivism to envision how our shared space and shared world could change for the positive.  It is peace in action.

Craftivism takes various forms, depending on the message, materials and space.  My personal favourite, because I'm a fiber geek and knitting fiend, is yarn bombing.  Yarn bombing essentially adds cozies to items in public spaces.  Think tea cozy but for things like tanks, buses, street lights, trees or bicycles.

Rainbow Tree Cozy

Bus Cozy
Utility Pole Cozy

The "Holy Roller" in London, Ontario.
The tank cosy meme is a wonderful example of how craftivism in general and yarn bombing in particular challenges how we understand the cultural meaning of an item and our acceptance of that meaning.  The tank is a weapon, tool of war and often a public monument, like the "Holy Roller" in Victoria Park, London, Ontario.  It symbolizes war, death, fear and strength, as well as valour, patriotism and glory.  Unstated and often nearly unconscious, all of these concepts are neatly represented by an armoured machine created to kill.

Now wrap all those nearly unconscious of ideas violence and valour in a giant knitted cozy.

 Kristina Kromer, Barbara Niklas, and 60 volunteers, 2013.
Marianne Jorgensen, 2006
Marianne Jorgensen
Marianne Jorgensen
Marianne Jorgensen

I remember seeing a tank cozy for the first time.  Was the tank more clearly a killing machine because the handmade stitches were so incongruous?  Or did the softened edges and vibrant colours suggest an alternative meaning was possible?  Could the tank be re-imagined as something other than a killing machine?  Marianne Jorgensen, creator of the 2006 pink tank cozy protesting the invasion of Iraq, says that "When [the tank] is covered in pink, it becomes completely unarmed and looses its authority".  Can we undermine authority with knits and purls?  Can we lend authority to the values we wish to see in the world, those of peace and inclusion, with yarn and needles?

Hell yeah.

Rainbow yarn bomb on Jane Street.
This week at Peace Flag House, as we gear up for the Neighbours United for Inclusion Community BBQ, I have called upon the help of neighbours, friends and the crafty community at Wise Daughters Craft Market to do some yarn bombing with me.  We are stitching up rainbow cozies for utility poles and trees along Jane Street.

Wise Daughters Yarn Bomb on Jane Street.

Our rainbow yarn bombs are talking back to the hate crimes and stories of violence targeted at the LGBTQ community with the peaceful stitching of rainbows.  We are asking the neighbourhood to rethink how we perceive and create our community.  Rather than simply accepting the status quo, we are adding authority to the values of inclusion and peace by altering our public space.

We are peacing for peace.

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