Physical Assembly in Kenya

GTAGlobal Tapestry of Alternatives held its first physical Assembly in Kenya earlier last month (8th-13th August) and renewed our bonds of companionship and affection, weaving together both a material TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of fabrics from our individual contexts and a Tapestry of ideas featuring what our vision should look like going forwards.

The GTA core team along with the local partners met the Kenyan civil society. The objective of holding such a meeting was one, for GTA members to understand the current socio-cultural, economic, ecological and political situation in Kenya, and get a sense of the kind of alternative initiatives that communities and CSOs are involved in. And second, for Kenyan CSOs to understand the GTA’s objectives and activities. Through this, it is hoped that longer-term collaboration can be built between Kenyan groups and many from other parts of the world. This led to an inspiring sharing and a possibility of beginning of weaving alternatives in eastern Africa.

The assembly began with rituals facilitated by the elders from Tharaka community under the sacred tree where the legendary Mau Mau rebellion was initiated against the British in Eastern Kenya. It was a powerful moment of being blessed by the sacredness of nature and rituals and infused with the energy of fighting against the oppressive forces. The positivity generated through these rituals carried us through the intensity of these four days.

Discussions centered around clarifying and reflecting upon our language, such as what we mean by Weaving, by AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them., and what the Global Tapestry’s role is within larger socio-political transformations. Assembly members from around 25 countries representing the four weavers, endorsers of GTA gathered over six days to understand each other's struggles and constructive alternatives. They represented a wide variety of groups: ecological, feminist, youth, Indigenous, worker, farmer, activist, researcher, academic.

We reflected on several themes including experiments on radical democracy, food sovereignty, alternative pedagogies, solidarity economies, health & healing among others. It emerged from the three day gathering that GTA is like a ‘learning academy’ for movement building and creating strategic alliances among networks of alternatives.. The assembly reflected on the role of the core team, assembly to take decisions as well as, role of GTA as a political subject. Endorsers (and in general assembly members) are invited to take on more active participation, volunteering for activities that are associated with their areas of interest.

Some takeaways from participants included:

  • Sharing powerful experiences of communities working hard to fight inequalities and injustices
  • How different geographies are building new and old narratives to the “development agenda”, whether it is seed conservation or religious practices
  • Addressing Feminism within the alternatives, which will open up space to discuss racism, colonialism, ableism, etc
  • Discussing the process of working together to bring about Weaving
  • Sharing approaches that work, along with cultural insights, story telling, and informal discourses that were equally meaningful
  • Reconnecting back to purposes and connections to nature, indigenous spirituality, and energy from the amazing work being done by so many

Some of the exciting follow-up actions that emerged through 4-day discussions are listed below-

  1. Dictionary of concepts (Creating a global repository of concepts & worldviews on alternatives, and building on existing material like the Pluriverse)
  2. Learning exchange/academy (To promote sharing and collaboration on alternative learning)
  3. Toolkit for weaving (To help new weavers learn from the experiences of older ones)
  4. Common declaration (For collective visioning and strengthening solidarity, and to promote this to the outside world)
  5. Thematic groups (To promote mutual understanding and deepening of knowledge across the world):
  • Democracy
  • Learning
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Health and Healing
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution
  • Solidarity Economies

Following these four days of interaction, the participants visited communities practicing and living Alternatives around Kenya. The first community were the Tharakas, who speak Kiitharaka. The community has been recalling their clan governance system and customary laws and, with it, their ancestral responsibilities to protect their territory and cosmology; SALT (the organization based in Kenya who hosted the Assembly) has been helping them assert their rights to decision-making by incorporating local citizens' assemblies, ecological responsibility, and livelihood sovereignty. The second community, the Il Ngwesi, where communities are running their own community conservancy by protecting their wildlife, creating eco-based tourism, and generating localized sustainable livelihoods. The assembly members had a brief interaction with the community. In both the communities, members were welcomed with traditional dance and singing.

In the coming months, we plan to put all that has been discussed into action, exploring the above six aspects with deeper focus. We have documented the Assembly in great detail, and will be uploading a comprehensive report soon. The team has created a video documenting the meaningful experiences held within this space, along with an introductory video on the GTA, which will be uploaded on the website as well. Our Twitter handle @GTAlternatives will also be featuring smaller bytes of both light-hearted moments and deep discussions, so as to provide an essence of this very enriching and productive time.

Accordingly, our next issue will be on the ideas and praxis surrounding Weaving, its many nuances and its revolutionary capabilities.