“Stick your ears out the door because something is about to happen”
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending the Inclusivity Pathway Training (IPT) conference initiated by Aminata Cairo. Representatives from various Dutch art academies, including AHK, ArtEZ, CodArts, Fontys, HKU, and WdKA, gathered at Amsterdam Hogeschool for the Arts for this event. The conference aimed to introduce us to Aminata’s IPT and promote its use in our institutes. It was a unique opportunity to work with a new group and explore her methods. The conference kicked off with individual goals: how to respond differently in difficult situations, how to be less angry or shocked, and how we can bring ourselves fully in our work. Aminata expressed that artists are healers who can connect without the need for words. The IPT methodology employed activities such as dance and songs, which are strongly related to Aminata’s cultural roots and training, as tools to achieve this connection.
During the conference, Aminata provided us with guidelines rather than rules. She emphasized that rules can create anxieties when broken. Simultaneously, she encouraged us not to flee when things become uncomfortable or “ongezellig.” If anxieties arise, they often carry valuable messages about ourselves. She also reminded us that we don’t all speak the same language, urging us to help one another navigate linguistic barriers. She emphasized the need for patience throughout the training, as it is a process of self-discovery, not about acquiring knowledge. Lastly, she invoked the “vegas rule” – what happens during the conference, stays within the conference.
To create an open space, Aminata led us in an exercise to share our personal pet peeves or “personal allergies.” These are minor annoyances that can trigger our reactions. For example some people get annoyed when other eat loudly, leave a door open, or won’t pass asside when you are comming through. Aminata pointed out that we can all be the 9th person to trigger someone’s pet peeves, leading to an explosive reaction. Understanding that explosions are often connected to deeper stories is crucial. Sharing our pet peeves helped break down barriers and fostered an open and understanding environment.
In another exercise, we walked around the room, paired up with participants we didn’t know, we sat down and closed our eyes. With only our fingertips touching (like E.T.), we connected with our partners and either led or followed their movements. This exercise allowed us to meet others without the use of words or sight. Afterward, we shared stories about those who inspired us during the exercise. These exercises each felt like setting the stage to openly approach ‘the other’ in a new setting.
One impactful exercise involved sharing personal experiences of exclusion within small groups of three participants. Listeners were asked not to respond but to simply listen. One of my participants wisely acknowledged that in the arts, we should refrain from delving deeper into such exercises, as we cannot predict what might be triggered when diving into personal past experiences. This exercise provided valuable insights into the power dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, and gave a sense into how we’re all related to the topic of exclusion.
Following the exchange of personal stories, Aminata invited us to engage in dance. It was a way for her as she explained to ‘get ouf of our heads’. She emphasized that this work could be emotionally demanding and used dance and song as means to release conscious or unconscious anxieties. I resonated deeply with her approach of employing physical activities to relieve emotional pressure.
After Aminata’s methods, we were divided into groups to explore different contexts of art education and discuss how the IPT training could be beneficial. It was an opportunity to brainstorm and envision how IPT could be implemented in our respective institutes. Aminata or her team members will visit our institutes at a later stage to continue the exploration of implementing IPT.
The IPT conference was an immersive experience that spanned a long day. Personally, I found the morning session, where we were introduced to Aminata’s methods, particularly engaging. It reminded me with a training I have done in 2019 with Luc OpdeBeeck. Instead of dance Luc uses theater (Formaat) to develop social interventions. The African lunch provided was really nice and the whole day facilitated meaningful connections with individuals from similar institutes. However, time seemed to slip away quickly, leaving us with limited opportunities to deeply explore the intricate topic of implementing inclusive training in our own institutes. A key challenge lies in reaching those who may be more reluctant to engage with these practices, as it is often easier to connect with those who are already interested. Nonetheless, the conference opened our minds to new possibilities and sparked discussions that will continue to shape our approach to inclusivity in the future.
Thank you to Aminata and her team.