‘This work…is my personal story. I started to paint outside when I was a teen. Looking for an identity. I never thought I was going to be an artist when I started out, but freedom allowed me to decide and freedom is a result of peace,’ Victor Ash.
Look at the challenge of violence in cities,” Phil continues, “Young people feeling frustrated, less empowered…the largest number of foreign fighters in ISIS are from Tunisia yet Tunisia has had 2 elections post-Arab Spring…ISIS is doing it’s best to undermine that progress, as the bombing and shooting of tourists have shown…alienated young people join ISIS…it’s an urgent problem. What if enough people from today’s generation undermine the peace programme? It’s important to ensure they have the opportunities they need…economic development, jobs, which are not sectarian…we’re working with businesses on where to invest…. what’s the peacebuilding solution? Economic development can be a force for peace whereas bad economic development can be terrible for peace as in oil in Nigeria, so the question is, as I am building my bottom line do I engage better relationships? Am I recruiting people who could be dissatisfied? It’s not easy – it’s a whole framework.”
“Do you mean a kind of corporate peace?” I ask.
“Well, yes,” Phil replies, “In as much as the baseline for companies when building their business and the way they evaluate their success is not just about profit and value to the shareholder, there’s an intent to contribute to conflict resolution, to peace and stability, it’s a whole new model.”
I realise it’s literally a paradigm shift. And I realise I can be part of this new reality, simply by building similar values into my life, even just in small, everyday ways. We can all contribute if we want to.
“Socially, personally…just be cooler. Be cool, don’t treat yourself so seriously….that’s the message I try to put int my art.” Yola smiles.