I was approached by the British Council to facilitate a poetry workshop in “Misrata” Libya, see my earlier report entitled “First Day in Libya Misrata – Poetry Workshop (Part 1)” blogged on Feb 12th.
I found the experience of working with school students in Misrata both exciting and rewarding. I’ve learned so much from them and the journey; from the first day of the workshop until the last day (15\2\2012) has enriched me and given me a better perspective on how to work with young students, but mostly, what it is like to be a war child. What those children have experienced from extreme violence, fear and pain has matured them and made them stronger, but there is still a lot of bitterness, a lot of anger and a lot of resentment. Those children have lost fathers, brother, cousins and friends, they are still grieving and there is so much pressure on them to forgive and forget and move on. There’s also a lot of pressure on them to succeed academically, something I find almost impossible to do when the painful events have ended late September 2011, and with so many rebel fighters still missing, and many still healing in hospitals or recovering slowly at home.
The British Council’s initiative is a very thoughtful one, the objective of my workshop was to help students express their feelings on the war in a healthy way, and to do it creatively, this was thought to help the students to put their ideas on what happened in Misrata Libya into poetry, to finally speak about it honestly instead of denying or forgetting that it had happened, but it is also hoped that the workshop could help the students concentrate on the creative side of their anger and resentment, since after the revolution many schools have witnessed some acts of violence between students who belong on different sides of the war; the children of the rebel fighters who have sacrificed a lot to topple the old regime, and the children of those who were either passive during the revolution, or were supporters of the old oppressive regime. To bring a foreigner (me) to find creative and fun ways for those children to write about their feelings on the revolution would help shift their concentration from the negativity which the revolution had left behind, to see the beauty rather than the injustice of the sacrifices that were made.
I watched them during those four, short, very quick passing days, become more and more engaged, it was so interesting hearing their thoughts and their creative expressions on the meaning of home, country, land, defeat, anger, victory and loss.
As a final assignment I asked them to write a poem in the form of a dialogue between themselves and an imaginary revolution martyr, and I was surprised and pleased with the results, some of them imagined the martyr as their father and were very emotional in their longing for him, some focused on telling the martyr about how the revolution ended and how Libya has changed since the revolution. And one student used some words from an old Qadafi speech about Libya then very creatively added his own perspective on what his “home land” means to him, his poem was very beautiful, very well structured one and he performed it - on the last day of the workshop - with such conviction and such passion.
I left Libya with so much hope, as the Libyan children have brushed me with their bright optimism and their relentless passion to survive. A Free country at last, Libya is a country worth visiting, just as the strong, powerful and passionate Libyan people are worth knowing.
Note: Some photos from the final day of the workshop and some photos of Tripoli are published on my facebook and my twitter account.