With Jack Brown and Katy Beinart
Caravan, In Dialogue, Primary, Nottingham
AZ: I walked away from being an artists... not personally but professionally, or at least I thought I did and then realised I hadn't...
I have quite a socially active background...and a creative one, my parents raised me as artists. Originally I studied theatre and then ended up going into creative facilitation, so it was political self with my artists self.
.. I went and did an MA in human security, which is a meeting point of conflict resolution and human development. This was consciously walking away from the arts because at the time I found everything a bit anal and beige.
...So what I have ended up doing, in South Africa, just down the road in Nottingham, in the Middle East, in Europe, is using stories and art and story weaving as conflict resolution and development tool.
..I've done things like drawing communal pictures in the sand when there has been linguistic problems, creating monsters together, I know that might seem really weird, but when it comes to situations in conflict - people see each other as the monster and this can limit dialogue, so sometimes before you can even talk you have to do really silly stuff, you have to play.
The monsters, the stories are things you create together, so there is a sense that you have some control over it and you can believe in 'happy ever afters' in story land, and you can explore really horrific stuff in story, so I realised from that perspective I might call myself a story-weaver.
JB - broadly, who are the people you work with?
AZ - a lot of different people, I mean, most recently I've done quite a lot with women from different faiths coming together...
JB - and who is that through, who is that organised by?
AZ - 'New art exchange' has been a partner in that and a group called 'faith in action'.
I work in a very project based way so it’s sort of one thing here and one thing there, and it’s not all local. Some of the stuff I do is through groups in Portugal or there is the Echotopia festival in Germany, or Echo M.E. in Israel Palestine.
Arriving there they wouldn't let me on the plane... its quite funny when you go to a project...because a lot of the peace dialogue around the world end up being not really peace dialogue but one side or another and its kind of activism, Israeli authorities tend to be quite dubious of various things so with something like 'story weaving' you have to make up a whole story of why you are there ' I'm travelling to meet my Israeli Jewish friends...' you couldn't tell them you are going on a bus with whole load of soldiers with teddy bears in one hand and guns in the other to a place out in the dessert, to be in a tented area with a load of people from different countries... doing art together!... you can't say that because they just wouldn't understand...
There is a project in South Africa called 'My Life'... which is by and for street children, which, you know have massive problems over there and that's all very creative, having said that its not like its an art project, but the way that young people choice to communicate will often be in a creative way, they will do it through music or through dialogue, which I think is intensely creative in itself, in itself its an art medium.
...because what I do is multidisciplinary, whether I'm an artist or not depends on who I'm writing to or who I'm working with. It’s a bit like - what dress an I wearing today?
I don't think being an artist is a choice, I think, to me being an artist is a way of seeing things, so the work I've ended up doing politically; international or inter-faith work, its done through the lens of being an artist...because its how I see the world
KB - and you probably can't not see it like that...
AZ - I've tried, it didn't work.