Between the 1st and the 3rd of May the UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts had its second annual Spring School, to talk about asylum and refuge from many different perspectives. And what a great success it was! Three days of presentations and workshops in the welcoming Heart of Scotstoun Community Centre in the West End of Glasgow. The School attracted academics (some from as far away as Australia!),
experts-by-experience, advocacy groups, integration networks and activists, and we talked, thought, laughed (even cried a bit) and enjoyed together the yummy food cooked for us by the great team at Küche.
The theme of this year’s Spring School came from a song by Karin Polwart, from her wonderful ‘Wind resistance’ album, which talks about the collective efforts of geese as they fly in a V formation. Birds thus featured prominently in most presentations and workshops, and our Palestinian Arabic taster was built around a line from a deeply moving poem by Mahmoud Darwish, called ‘The earth is closing on us’. The line says:
‘Where should the birds fly, after the last sky?’
So, at the workshop we learnt to greet and introduce ourselves in Arabic, but also the name of colours for squares of origami papers, which we then folded to make ‘asfour’, birds of many different colours. Arabic has two words for bird. One, ‘tayir’, indicates the general order of feathered animals, while asfour is used to refer to the little birds whose specific name we don’t quite know: the ones that dart around our cities and countryside, that sing – sometimes beautifully – and that can make us smile. All the little, colourful asafeer (this is the plural of asfour) we made at the workshop were collected at the end and gathered together on a piece of driftwood, so they could be displayed in the main hall for everyone to enjoy.
Quite a few of the workshop’s participants said they want to learn Arabic with our friends and colleagues at the Arabic Center of the Islamic University of Gaza. All of them said they had had a wonderful time (and so did we!)
Team member Alison delivered the keynote speech to mark the end of the Spring School, coming back to Karin Polwart’s birds, and dressed in the little asafeer of our Palestinian Arabic workshop.