Libya is currently known worldwide -sadly- as a place full of conflicts, terrorism, and chaos. Taking into account the number of youth who participated in conflicts that started in 2011 and are still ongoing can give a negative view on what those young Libyans have in mind about peace. The political polarisation that was created by the parties of conflicts after the Libyan uprising in February 2011, focused mostly on university-aged youth and below, because of the fact that high percentage of Libya’s population is youth. Well, that is not the whole story!
Not all into war
The fact is many young Libyans joined civil society activities after the spread of local and international NGOs in most of Libya’s cities, right after the falling of Gadhafi’s regime. These youth have found a space for sharing their dreams and thoughts about what they want to see in the new Libya. Although, there was a huge difficulty continuing those activates in a peaceful environment when a political division occurred in few years after the celebration of freedom and the first steps towards democracy, especially after 2014. This unstable security situation has reflected on the general atmosphere of Libyan citizens who choose not to enter the armed conflicts, especially young Libyans. This chaos has affected the social and economic situation, leaving Libyan citizens struggling to have their simple living needs. So what can a creative young mind who is craving for peace do in such an insecure situation?
Let there be a book !
The Libyan conflicts had an extremely violent impact, which is something nobody can ignore. Those conflicts may cause shocks and instability to a lot of people, but that is not the case for those who have the grace of creativity. Here, we have young Libyans whose minds were busy with the dreams of a “civilian” country, and their desires for acceptance, diversity, renouncing violence, embracing freedom of expression and peace building, all while strongly resisting the political polarisation. Their passion for creative writing led them to choose creativity over joining wasted political and armed conflicts or falling into depression due to the current tough situation. This direction led many young writers to produce a good amount of diverse writings ranging from short stories to poems and novels.
Arete Foundation for Arts and Culture, which began its work in 2012, has never given up supporting young Libyan artists even with the different waves of violence that hit both of the major cities they worked in: Tripoli and Benghazi. They have launched many art related activities in both cities for youth. One of those activities was the “Cinema Club” in Tripoli because Libya has always been in lack for cinema culture under Gadhafi’s regime. Fans of cinema gathered every month in the Art House at Tripoli to watch movies during the peaceful days when there was not that much violence in the Libyan capital. One day, a diplomatic man who used to attend those movie-watching sessions at the club asked Khaled Mattawa, the head of Arete foundation at that time: “What do those cinema fans write about?” This question has inspired Arete to make a project that assembled the talents of those youth in a single book, as Khaled Mattawa mentioned in the book-signing event.
A joyful evening in Tripoli
In the Fourth of July, a celebration was hosted by the Libyan Association for Culture and Arts in Dar El-Fege Hassan at Tripoli for “Sun over closed windows” book. The book has published by a cooperation between Arete Foundation for Arts and Culture, Darf Publishers and the British Council. It assembled the work of different young Libyan writers from all over Libya. It contained amazing writings in different genres such as poems, and short stories, which reflected their passions and thoughts about the Libyan society, inspired by the changes they have gone through while growing up in such difficult circumstances. The event attracted so many young Libyans who are passionate about books, arts and creative writing. It also witnessed an attendance of political and cultural Libyan figures. It resulted in a diversity in terms of age and gender among the attendees of the event. The writers had the chance to read their works in the book for this special audience and received encouraging feedbacks. After that, there was a book signing session, where the attendees had the chance to talk to those writers and ask them for autographs. Most of them were experiencing their first book signing so that made them write warm comments for their fans, everybody was happy. At the end, there was a special buffet in the form of the traditional way of celebration in Tripoli; it contained the “Abamber” almond sweets and almond drink that Libyan love to include in every celebration, especially weddings, called “Rozatah”. The crowd, the smiles, the colours, the loud chats, the mikes, the photo taking and the whole joy that gathered everybody in the place, made the event feel like a wedding celebration; something full of hopes for new beginnings and correlation. This event was so special; it is a very important chance that Arete gave to those names to shine and it conveys a clear message that these young minds are still active with the hope for peace and tolerance in the Libyan society. Above all, it shows that we all need to work towards a better future.