Promoting Peace through the Arts
by Steve Schapiro
“I was at war with war,” says Dhamay Kanthan.
Growing up in Sri Lanka, where civil war was an element of life, Kanthan became cynical at an early age about war and those who participated. “[Soldiers] were stupid. I spent a lot of time making them wrong.”
Then, she took the Landmark Forum. “On Sunday [of the Forum] I got a glimpse at how my life’s been,” she said. After the Landmark Forum she accepted the choices of the soldiers as their self-expression, and got
present to the possibility of being a stand for peace.
In the Self Expression and Leadership Program, Kanthan created Feel the Connection, a group of volunteers committed to promoting peace through music, dance and poetry from around the world with the goal of inspiring audiences to feel the connection to each other, our community, and the world as a whole; and to realize that peace is possible now and it begins with each one of us.
The first show was in September, 2007 at a small community theater in Toronto. The program included Bharathanatyam (classical Indian dance) by Calai Chandra from Chicago, an Indonesian shadow play by
Me and My Shadows, African drumming by Mutadi World Drummers, and Hip Hop artists Little Empire.
After the event people demanded she create more events. Despite living inside of a commitment for peace in the world, her response to those requests was, “Are you kidding… that took so much already. I have no time.”
She was at a crossroads. How could she fulfill on creating peace given her concerns and disempowering conversations?
Kanthan gave up her resistance and conversation about time and joined the Team Management and Leadership Program as an opportunity to get the training that would have Feel the Connection expand and fulfill her commitment to make the difference in the world.
“I saw that communication was access to peace on the planet. People get more incomplete in war,” she said. The distinctions from the new model of communication “creates conversations where people are left complete.”
Inside of the possibility of being effortless excellence, inspiring leadership, and delightful fun, Kanthan continued Feel The Connection as her Game in the World. Being in the Team Management and Leadership program has given her training and development to create teams and teamwork with anybody.
“Before it was just me and it was work. Now I have a few hundred people on my team and partnerships with Rotary Clubs. There is no way that would have happened before TMLP.”
Now that there is a team helping to create Feel the Connection, there have been two lively shows and another event is scheduled for September 2010. Kanthan’s team includes a partnership with community organizations and preparations are under way for a four-day outdoor international festival in July as well.
As a member of Team Toronto, Kanthan now distinguishes her life as one of protecting and defending herself, her children, her opinions, and her way of being.
Her experience of leading Feel the Connection has also shifted from having a project outside of herself, to being the clearing for the possibility
that the organization fulfills. She now experiences herself as powerful and able to take on being accountable with ease. “It has shifted from
being a game to being myself.”