Friday, March 12, 2010

On Bridges That Unite

Looking for something unique to do this month? Need more culture in your life? I know I do.

Consider visiting "Bridges That Unite", a free bilingual exhibition taking place at Concordia University's McConnell Building Atrium until March 26, 2010.

As per the press release, Bridges That Unite
"invites visitors to consider Canada's role in the world through the lens of a remarkable 25-year partnership with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in some of the world's most isolated and impoverished regions. Thought-provoking stories spanning several continents are told through powerful images, evocative soundscapes and multimedia components."
Yes, that last part is actually true.

Every time I've been to the exhibition so far - 2 times and counting! - I have discovered new images and new text. It's not that the exhibition is constantly changing, it's just that I'm absorbing the information in a different way. It's a little uninviting at first due to the layout of the exhibition in a tight, linear space, but once you're in it, you're in.

I was delighted to discover the ring of chairs, a symbol of the thought and communication that goes into the planning of development programmes. It's the starting point for meaningful social change that will make a lasting impact even in the most remote and impoverished areas of the world. As part of the ring of chairs exhibit, you can listen to recorded testimonials from some of the people who have witnessed this impact first-hand.

One of them is Steve Mason, who worked as a programme manager for Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan and whom I met as the head of Aga Khan Foundation East Africa during my visit to Kenya. I remember being so immensely impressed by his talent, work and dedication to improving the lives and livelihoods of these communities and I yearned to learn from his experience. As I found out this weekend, he was just appointed as the first CEO of AKF West Africa. Congrats, Steve!

Bridges That Unite has many more well-hidden secrets but have no fear! There are guides available to help you decipher all the panels and the stories they tell. Dressed in red vests, these guides are on site during regular business hours, 7 days a week.

What I enjoyed the most about Bridges That Unite was the feeling you get when you're walking around. It's not a feeling of desperation and anger and death. It's a feeling of love, help and hope. It makes you wonder what Canada can do to continue in this successful partnership with the developing world. It makes you wonder what you can do - what I can do - to provide that spark of hope that will make the world a better place.

I haven't figured it out yet, but if and when you do, write it on a sticky note and affix that note to the board in the Bridges That Unite exhibition that inquires, "The world needs more..."

Who knows? With the right ingredients, maybe we can change the world.

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