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Friday, December 13, 2019

Women PeaceMakers, Art, and a Capstone Journey of Resiliency

Written by Kroc School

Women PeaceMakers, Art, and a Capstone Journey of Resiliency

Friday, December 13, 2019TOPICS: FieldworkStudent SuccessWomen PeacemakersStudy Abroad

The following post was written by Jessica Gorman, a Master's in Peace and Justice student at the Kroc School.

The spark that ignited my capstone project for my Master’s in Peace and Justice (MAPJ) happened last Spring, in an Italian restaurant in Bogotá, Colombia. While there for a course on social innovation, a group of my peers and I were able to have dinner with 2018 Woman PeaceMaker Rosa Emilia Salamanca. The dinner was extraordinary, providing powerful insight into the peacebuilding efforts of women throughout Colombia.

As we were saying goodbye, Rosa Emilia gave me a hug and then apologized for being tired. My stomach lurched as she said that. This was an unforgettable night, and yet here she was apologizing for the personal result of her endless sacrifices.

For weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about her comment and began to see the pattern all around me that women were battling exhaustion, anxiety, and depression on their journey to make change and serve the endless needs of their communities. Was there anything we could do to disrupt this pattern?

Curious about how the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s (Kroc IPJ) Women PeaceMakers program looked at the problem of burnout, I met with Program Officer Jennifer Bradshaw, and a kismet type of conversation developed around these themes. I left that day with a dream capstone project in hand. What we would end up calling The Artifact Project was a component of the Women PeaceMakers Program focused on designing a platform of creativity, reflective practice, and resiliency for the Women PeaceMakers during their six-week residency at the Kroc School. 

The historical pattern has been that women’s stories are being told for them. Art has a way of opening up platforms of accurate representation when done collaboratively. Thus, the vision for this project was that each peacemaker would partner with an artist who would create a visual piece, that would serve as a marker, an artifact, of who the peacemaker is and what sustains her in this work. In a co-creative process, the women would meet each week with their assigned artist and share pieces of their story, looking at the purpose behind their work with a unique lens art can provide.

Ruth Buffalo and Qijun Liu

Jennifer Bradshaw and Kroc IPJ Program Assistant Alexa Withrow adopted me into their team as we partnered with USD Art Professor Farrah Karapetian to create a program in alignment with these values. Four artists from Farrah’s photography classes, Qijun Liu, Curtis Chambers, Kai Monteil-Doucette, and Gideon Sawyer were selected to work on this project with the PeaceMakers Ruth Buffalo, Rina Kedem, Lilian Riziq, and Mossarat Qadeem. Advising me throughout this process with elevating perspective and knowledge was Kroc School Professor Michael Fryer.

Gideon Sawyer and Mossarat Qadeem

This was a pilot program, inspired by the asks of previous cohorts of Women PeaceMakers, and demanded a constant sphere of adaptation and learning. In all honesty, this process did not always go as anticipated, and instead of the life-giving journey I’d hoped it would be, it was often stressful for those involved. With such an emphasis on creating an end product in a rapid time frame, some of the values behind the mission of this process were sacrificed. However, even amongst the challenges that occurred, powerful, diverse visual pieces of art were created that can serve as a marker of the peacemakers’ time in this residency.

Professor Karapetian, the 2019 Women PeaceMakers and artists

Though the process did not run as smoothly as intended, my hope is that seeds were planted in regards to looking at one’s life through creativity and giving space to analyzing the heart of resiliency. As I wrestled in my own reflective process, discouraged by the components which fell short, a friend said something powerful to me. She shared, “You can’t say this project failed to build resiliency because look at what it did in you.” The learning that came through this process not only will contribute to a more effective project for future cohorts of Women PeaceMakers, but a better peacebuilder in me. Through this experience of working with a diverse array of individuals from these powerful women peacebuilders to artists, professors, and the Kroc IPJ, I was able to take theories learned in the classroom and apply them in a way that contributed to the greatest educational experience of my Master’s. This project emphasized and improved my skills in intercultural communication, conflict mediation, and project management. Through this journey, I honed my own discipline of reflection, widened my perspective on the barriers to representation, and increased my capacity to endure and adapt with hope. What I was looking to build in others came forth for myself, and that need for humility is not lost on me. Every mistake made is now serving as a catalyst for improvement, and this truly was a dream opportunity.

Lilian Riziq with Kai Monteil-Doucette

In spite of what this project did or did not do in regard to building a creative process of reflection, these women are resilient. One evening, as I was walking to my car after leaving the house where the peacemakers stayed, I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of laughter. A window in the house was open, and you could hear the women laughing hysterically together. I stayed there for a moment and listened, and breathed in the thought that this — this laughter — was the sound of resiliency.

Rina Kedem with Curtis Chambers

At the Kroc School, we are educating for peace and social innovation. Ready to join us? Learn more about the Kroc School and its graduate programs.



Kevin Dobyns
(619) 260-7618

Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (Kroc IPJ) launched in 2001 with a vision of active peacebuilding. In 2007, the Kroc IPJ became part of the newly established Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, a global hub for peacebuilding and social innovation. The core of the Kroc IPJ mission is to 
co-create learning with peacemakers — learning that is deeply grounded in the lived experience of peacemakers around the world, that is made rigorous by our place within a university ecosystem and that is immediately and practically applied by peacemakers to end cycles of violence.

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