After the keynote speeches, KS gathered us in the cafe and told us the FCP artists and Alter U participants should introduce themselves to one another. In the spirit of egalitarianism and cross-cultural exchange, this should've been a good idea.

Unfortunately, KS also wanted there to be reflections on the keynotes, so he actively encouraged each person to speak for several paragraphs. Bear in mind that there are 17 artists and 24 Alter U participants, and everything needed translation into Burmese or English, and this was lunchtime, and all of us were HUNGRY.

 Very bad idea. (In my opinion at least.)
But the truth is, it did turn up some very interesting perspectives. One revelation is how heterogenous our Alter U participants are: there are poets, dancers, video artists, language instructors who're vaguely interested in the arts but not sure specifically how, even folks who were trying to promote their designer handbag shops.

Street dancer Ye Nyi had deep issues with Ko Tar's program of monastic schooling.
Ye: Monks and lay people have different responsibilities. They should not need to work together. Maybe monks should not be involved in protests.
Other participants urgently spoke up in defence of the monastery schools (which Ye had actually attended himself). Then there were two male participants who opined that "women's rights are maybe not relevant to our society". That really rubbed some artists (including me) the wrong way.

The artists had their own unexpected things to say:
Julie: I’m looking at how censorship is working on us, and the things that are not being spoken about that matter to me: gay and lesbian issues, trans issues, class isues. My work focuses on communication and intimacy. I’m trying to use some of my own work to listen and draw out these issues, because I’m sure thy’re among us.

Kaffe: In a fundamentally Buddhist society, I’m curious about the way women are discussed here, and equality. How can women be equal in today’s society?

Brett: It came up in the performance we saw last night and also in APK's talk: sometimes we have to stand back and wait for change to happen. I’m just becoming aware of a bit of standing back, which is worrying to me. For me, coming from South Africa, revolution is quite a healthy thing.

Kaffe: For a country where people spend a lot of time meditating, there’s a lot of listening going on, and a lot of learning. But having said that, it’s a very very noisy country.    
Eventually a few of us (particularly me) made it clear that we were not about to spend all afternoon sacrificing our stomachs for our minds. We left about half of our community unintroduced. Am I upset by the injustice? Not very.
 


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