An Avantgardenist Approach: Creating Peace Gardens in the Urban Realm
The first event of our second #UrbanACoCo season was a very special and emotional event (see slides here). Nearly 30 people turned up to listen to UrbanA fellow Burcu Eke Schneider and other team members from the Avantgardenist Peace garden of Wuppertal urban garden at the Alevi Culture Center, in the heart of Wuppertal city in Germany. With team members including native Germans and newer arrivals from Turkey, Syria, Bosnia, Czech Republic and further afield, the talk looked at the power of community gardens to create peace and heal traumas, while contributing to environmental sustainability such as a boost in biodiversity. This culturally sensitive project organizes regular Agoras with participative democracy understanding.
The event included a “Listening Room”, where Burcu talked in greater depth about theory to practice and answered specific questions, and “Breakout Rooms” where guests broke into smaller groups to discuss what the following questions mean for their communities or cities:
- Do you know examples of cities working with peace initiatives?
- How can urban gardens contribute to peace and inclusivity?
- How can we transform community spaces to be more eco-friendly?
Projects links, map and Local newspaper article: Project Website: Wuppertals Urbane Gärten Netzwerk | Email | Facebook Group: Urbangardening Friedens Projekt | Instagram | Deutsche Welle Article: Urban Gardening fördert Integration: Da wächst was zusammen (Urban gardening promotes integration: something grows together) | German garden map
As Bernd Vetterick who is the founder of Nature Gardens says; “Biodiversity is a vital basis for human life on earth. In our peace garden we are going to celebrate the diversity of people and the diversity of life forms on earth.” Parallel to the first exchange about plants and sustainable cultivation methods, a space was created which actively offers solutions for a common future. In this regard It is important to find a common ground between local-level stakeholders, like religious centres, institutions, NGOs, universities, municipality, art world and the international community. The idea is inspired by nature and the peace garden team use the following scientific tools for building bridges between different actors:
- Inclusive Transformation
- Empowering Women and Youth
- Local level Actor Analysis, Conflict Analysis and Transformation
- Intercultural Knowledge Mobility
- Creative Thinking
- Trauma Healing
- Art of Peace
- Peace Education
New spaces can encourage the young generation, especially women, to be part of a positive change. One of the young women members of this peace project, Bengi Çiplak, says:
“I think the loss of identity and being out of touch with nature is an increasing issue, especially for people around my age and the following generations. I feel like people lose their awareness for how this world was developed and what we as humans need to do, to keep this planet safe for any living creature. Being caught up in the busy city life makes you forget what the essentials for a functioning and healthy world are. Being out of touch with nature makes you disconnected to the most natural thing you can actually experience.”
Finally, peace-building is an invaluable method for promoting urban sustainability and justice that contributes to understanding the root causes of problems at the micro level and finding solutions. An important intervention for preventing violence, it works with inclusiveness to help enable the emergence of a common understanding in three main ways:
- First, it can support inclusive processes of just urban transition that respect diversity of cultural backgrounds and ethnicity.
- Second, it can promote more environmentally friendly behaviour and attitudes among participants.
- Third, it can convey new meanings of “collective struggle for a common future” in different languages, cultures and sacred places.
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