AtWorkers on their experience

What participants experienced in Rome, Kampala, N’Djamena and Harare.

Participants attending AtWork in Rome, at Galleria Nazionale.

Rome

One day, someone posed a simple question: what is your dream? The mind begins to run rapidly in a race of countless images. How to pick the right one? Perhaps we remain speechless, because like in a swirl of colors, we can no longer distinguish one from the other. So we ask ourselves, what is a dream?

For some, it is something tangible. It is matter, work, creation. It’s a project to be realized, a role in the community. For others it is an abstract, intimate and emotional, projected towards oneself and not outside. Yet, the two things are not separate; they are born from the same principle. A force of attraction acts within each of us towards something that wants to be achieved. Exploring that tension, giving it a face, we find the means to join the dream. Each notebook in this exhibition is not the final product, but a metaphor of our research. In a four-day workshop, we dug inside ourselves, relating to each other, trying to discover and develop those tools we need in order to strive towards the dream.

Guided by Simon Njami, we identified a different project that spoke to us. In the different phases, we discussed our abilities and shortcomings. Our desires, pasts, cultures and fears. With this project in mind, we have learned to know ourselves better. The creative process has allowed us to truly observe ourselves through our very own eyes, and those of others, sometimes becoming those others seeing ourselves change. We gave advice and we imagined the best solutions for each other’s work, finding answers to our doubts and discovering new ideas in a natural manner. The energy found within each of us created an extraordinary empathy, inexplicable for the short time spent together. It is an experience that we hope to internalize someday, in order to face our future.

— Valentina Gonzo

AtWork participants in Djamena, Chad.

N’Djamena

AtWork is an educational format designed by Simon Njami and the Moleskine Foundation. The workshop was brought to the National Museum of Chad in N’Djamena from 2nd to 8th July 2018.

The theme of the workshop was “I had a dream”. During these few days, a group of about 27 participants (artists, journalists, directors and designers) were asked to explore the same question that had been put to participants at the Rome AtWork workshop: what is your dream?

Over 6 days, participants expressed and presented their dreams according to different themes. Each person had the opportunity to address the group, to express themselves freely and to define their dreams in detail. The workshop got off to a difficult start as most of the participants were not used to an approach that invited them to actively take part in debates and discussions. However, eventually everyone found a way to express themselves without falling back on clichés or platitudes, but rather by drawing on their emotions and desires. This workshop brought together young people from a variety of backgrounds. The workshops and activities took place in a positive atmosphere that fostered the free exchange of opinions and critical debate. Despite occasional difficulties, the experience was productive. One of the objectives of the workshop was to invite participants to express their dreams in a concrete way through a notebook that they had to customize. It is these unique and original notebooks that are presented in this exhibition.

For the first time in my life, I was asked: what is your dream? At first I found the question strange, I even thought it was simply a bit of fun. Questions jostled in my mind. I was lost for words. Until that moment, I had considered dreams to be personal and intimate things. Thanks to this workshop, led by Simon Njami, we learned to get to know our dreams and our hidden talents. During the 6 days of the workshop we discussed our dreams and the tools necessary to make them happen. It helped us learn to find the strength to think about how we can turn those dreams into reality.

This exhibition features 27 notebooks made over 48 hours.

— Nichakbé Mélanie

Participants attending AtWork Kampala, Uganda.

Kampala

What is your dream? The mind races to aspirations, ambitions, ideals and hopes.

“A dream is the projection of the future, precisely impossible and improbable” says Mahatma Ghandi. He continues; ‘’Dreams at first seem impossible, then seem improbable and finally, when we commit ourselves, become inevitable.’’ In this quote we learn that perhaps we are our own limitations.

Dreams can be difficult to achieve, yet no dream is too big. With willingness and hard work, anything is possible. “There’s always a price for a ticket -James Baldwin,” Simon Njami says. This examines how much we are willing to invest to achieve our dreams. How eager are we to do whatever it takes to create the change for ourselves? After the five day workshop there was a shift from trying to save the world, to creating a positive change for oneself. The learning process raised questions about what each individual wants to achieve, and the need to step out of one’s comfort zone. This allows one to think of the impossible. The process inspired deep, meaningful and life-changing contemplation of profound mysteries.

The ‘I had a dream’ workshop is a deconstruction of all that one knows to create room for other possibilities to happen. Our minds struggled to figure out how these dreams could be personal. We questioned our experiences with society, religion, identity, knowledge, history, impossibilities, invisibilities and political situations. The act of revealing ourselves, as if stripping naked, brought fears of failure, misinterpretation and doubt. We became curious about the empty space it revealed.

During the workshop, we found ourselves critically thinking and questioning broadly, and this has triggered a need to fill ourselves with knowledge. With the help and advice from the facilitators and participants in the workshop, we were able to critically think about our dreams and create questions. Additionally we helped each other redirect, translate and interpret our dreams and use each individual’s uniqueness. These dreams are infinite.

— Anita Kevin

AtWorkers in action in Harare, Zimbawe.

Harare

I had a dream. A dream that was a nightmare, a nightmare that was a prison — the dream, then was to awaken. It was Sigmund Freud who believed that a dream has two types of content. The first, which is clear to the dreamer: the manifest content that which we remember upon waking. Yet, it was the second type of dream, the one that we cannot remember, the one we can’t quite place; it is that one that is hidden, that holds the truth.

After four grueling days of nonsensical dreaming, in and out of consciousness, a trance-like state, conversations with our subconscious arose as we slowly awoke. For many of us, this is only the beginning; it is the starting point of deeper reflection, of introspection and of meditation. As we stood up one by one, we realized the only way to reach our dreams is to dig deeper and deeper. We journeyed through the ‘underworld’, through the depths of our thoughts, with Simon and Andrew as our only guides, giving nudges and dropping clues as we stumbled along into the shadows, finally venturing through to the point of clarity. We realized that our dreams were of the impossible, of wiping a memory, of undoing what has already been done, and done by so many. A dream of breaking a curse passed down generation by generation. Dreams of letting go, of handing it over and of never touching it again. Dreams of the impossible. And yet, some might just come true. If anything, we have seen what is possible in such a short amount of time. I have a feeling that if we overcome our limitation of not digging deep enough, we might just reach the impossible.

— Olivia Botha

Discover more on AtWork Program visiting AtWork official website.

This article was originally published in Aprl in April 2019 in Folios n.1 “I Had a Dream”, the Moleskine Foundation cultural publication.

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Moleskine Foundation

Moleskine Foundation

The Moleskine Foundation is a non-profit organization that believes that Creativity and Quality Education are key to producing positive change in society.