The “Memory and Procomún” work group at Medialab-Prado has developed for three years a model “prototype” on how to search for and collect stories which contain Strands of Peace and on how to elaborate, publish or perform these stories in an adequate format.
This document tries to outline the different steps of the prototype. This text is a draft by Juan Gutiérrez, coordinator of this work group, and is only intended as an orientation guide to be tested, implemented in quite different settings.
There is an important reason why the Strands of Peace Project prototype is not being presented as “the protocol” to be followed, but merely as a preliminary guide. As guide is designed to be open and to leave space for creativity, innovation and different artistic expression in the places where it’s implemented, in accordance with the different traumatic pasts, existing collective memories, the own cultural keys, approaches and styles of each organization and of the people who collect, process and offer stories showing Strands of Peace.
This prototype considers the following aspects in the process of collecting, enhancing and making public stories with SP:
- Search for the stories.
- Content of the stories.
- Relationships between the persons who tell the stories and the persons who collect them.
- Legal implications as well as the dignity and sensitivity of the people who are mentioned in the stories.
- The interview
- Digital archive.
- Polishing the chosen stories.
- Presenting the stories in adequate formats: creativity and artistic spaces.
- Exhibiting the stories in a friendly setting.
- Publishing the stories.
- Search for stories.
The stories can come from three different sources. Those which have been:
- published without any relation to the SP project.
- offered to the SPP by individuals who have collected them from older people they trust, usually from persons in their close circle or family members.
- collected by students who have been guided by their teachers, very often with the support of their families, from older people they trust,
- Content of the stories.
The stories should be related to times or situations of violence and show Strands of Peace in that situation, exposing as necessary the raw forms of violence which are often hidden. Having a passion for the context is the right attitude when searching the story.
The story could refer to any of the many traumatic situations that different peoples in Europe have suffered and remember. The memories of those who had family members who migrated are especially important. The violence that caused people to migrate from their countries, the violence they suffered on the way and when they arrived in the host country, and the SP that comforted and helped them during those stages could be related.
Although in general there have to be SP in the stories, when we the stories are collected and presented as a school task, they can be accepted and valued without SP, but in this case they will not be selected and processed to be presented in public.
The stories, which become in a way fixed when archived or published, refer to a past that has been lived, understood and remembered in many different ways and from many different perspectives in the present, and as such are can as well be considered testimonies that can be improved , enriched, checked, questioned and polished. The difference between a closed memory or monologue of self affirmation and an open one is that an open memory is open to dialogue, can be questioned or subjected to critical contributions and aims for the common good.
Apart from presenting the SP in their geographical and historical contexts, the stories have more value for the Strands of Peace project if they also present examples of other links of peace of life, such as the bonds between relatives or other persons.
- The relationship between the person who tells the stories and the one who collects them.
The stories should be considered gifts bestowed by the story teller. The story teller is contributing to make public something that until then has been silenced or only shared in intimacy as something confidential. Receiving the story as a present, we have to be careful that the person sharing it doesn’t lose it, but knows how it will be processed, agrees with that process, and can even participate in it. It is important that an agreement is signed about the story that is going to be published and that the restrictions to be followed are written down.
- Legal implications, including the dignity and sensitivity shown towards the people mentioned in the stories.
In the stories collected by students or others who have borrowed them from their families, people who have participated actively in the dynamics of violence may be mentioned. This could be extremely sensitive or harm the dignity of those involved and create countless serious legal problems. In this sense we need to be extremely careful to protect the dignity of the people involved in the events told, as well as the SPP itself. Often, omitting the names of the actors in the public story may be enough, but it is not always the case. Differing from other projects, the SPP tries to show the humanity in the SP while focusing the contexts of violence with all its horror. However, it is not the aim of the SPP to denounce those who have committed these acts of violence.
- The interview.
The interview where the story is noted down or received should not take place as an isolated contact with the storyteller, but should be preceded by a dialogue among generations that awakens mutual interest and affection. We have realized that the use of a questionnaire can also generate this mutual interest.
Further interviews could be carried out in an environment of trust, which allows memories that were dormant in the first interview to come to surface.
We dislike the idea of getting out of the storyteller something that he/she wishes to hide.
The interview itself may have an emotional charge for storyteller that shouldn’t be seen as something to be avoided, but rather as a threshold that needs to be respected and supported so that the story can continue as far as the storyteller wishes.
- Digital archive
As the SPP pursues not a collectors purpose we only store those stories which have been selected.
We suggest that each organization pays attention to avoid dispersal of maybe unique stories, files and keeps them in the way it wishes.
The digital archive should use the digital resources we have today at our disposal so that the SPP becomes a common good. It must protect its contents from any kind of abuse and at the same time make it accessible to anyone who is interested. In this sense, it is advisable that the archive also contain three-dimensional pictures of objects that may accompany the stories.
Throughout 2014/15, we will decide if the stories will be archived on one digital platform, or in different archives (potentially per country or language). In the meantime, the organization that collects the stories can provisionally take care of their conservation.
- The selection, polishing and enriching of the stories
In the selection of the stories we should check their authenticity, validity, wit, their literary and poetic value and the courage testified of actions that didn’t follow the rules or the discipline imposed by the group that was dominant at the time.
The polishing and enrichment of the selected stories is something necessary, unavoidable, and often natural. A fixed memory becomes closed and doesn’t receive the inputs needed to clarify the endless questions it poses.
The organization taking part in the SPP, usually the school itself, or a class in that school should select, polish, examine, put in an archive, show in an adequate format and if possible exhibit in a friendly environment, like the school itself, the chosen stories.
A story can be polished or handled in any of the following ways with regards its authenticity, its veracity, its literary quality, the human values it shows, how it relates to the SPP other links to life and peace, or how it is grafted into the collective memory of a traumatic experience.
In the process of polishing, we have to pay attention to the veracity of the stories, comparing them if possible with stories which refer to the same events and which come from sources with different points of view. We should search for any historical data that would confirm or contradict aspects of a story.
In the process of enriching, it is convenient to get more testimonies from other sources about the events and people in the story; anything that could add new elements.
The best known case of this process of purifying and enriching stories is the naming as “righteous among nations” by the commission established by the Yad Vashem Museum, but it has also occurred in some other cases too, like in the book , written by Alonso Domingo, of Melchor Rodriguez García “El Angel Rojo” ( The Red Angel). In this regard, publications by Gabriele Nissim, president of GARIWO followed by Eyal Press book “Beautiful souls: Saying No, breaking ranks and heeding the voice of conscience in dark times” are milestones.
- The presentation of stories in adequate formats: creativity and artistic spaces.
The portrayal of stories in formats that are adequate for public presentation opens an unlimited space for art, creativity and imagination that we haven’t explored much but in which some of the people participating or who are going to participate in the SPP have important experience and knowledge. As the project develops, criteria will be defined to establish the welcomed art treatments.
We have however a basic guiding criteria to start with: if a story is going to be part of the SPP, its portrayal must show Strands of Peace and do so with real life accounts, i.e. without fictitious or novel-like elements. The Novel-like stories of doubtful veracity may contribute to educating for peace and equity, but not as part of the SPP.
The stories that are chosen to be shown in differing formats, need to be processed by people who are able to improve the writing, draw a comic, film an interview , create and rehearse for a play or portray the story in the chosen format, and these people need to have the tools and the space necessary for this task. At the current stage of the development of the Project Strands of Peace, we haven’t got the financial support that allows us to pay for these activities, but we trust that the SPP can count on the contributions of the family and social support networks of the participating entities and with their disposition to contribute with voluntary work, which guarantees the authenticity of the project, and to which we don’t want to renounce even when we have more material/financial resources. That’s why we recommend that, especially during this pilot course 2014/15, the stories are processed by the people and with the resources that are already available to the school or the participating entity.
- The exhibition of stories in a friendly setting.
The exhibition of stories in a friendly setting may take place in the school itself or in the organization participating in the SPP and it may show stories in different stages of elaboration, accompanied by a description of the Project Strands of Peace and if needed some stories in different formats sent from the managing group of SPP.
The relatives of the students, the other people who have contributed with stories and their close circles could be invited to the exhibition. It is important to create a dialogue with these people during the time of the exhibition and collect their comments, criticism, suggestions and possible contributions.
- The publication of the stories.
Without doubt, the SPP should present its stories to public opinion, in as many different ways as possible, including public exhibitions that should be spaces for encounter and dialogue. However, this shouldn’t be done immediately before having carried out exhibitions in a protected atmosphere and having analyzed these experiences.
As such this step will not be included in the prototype of the SPP project until the end of this pilot year 2014/15.