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Messy magic at Asia Plateau

Sveinung Nygaard was one of seven from the Nordic countries who attended “UTSAV - a Festival of Hearts and Arts for the Future”, at the Initiatives of Change centre at Asia Plateau in Maharashtra, India. For a week in January, some 120 people from around the world gathered to reflect on the mission of IofC for the future. Sveinung offers a personal account of his experience at the gathering.

I am very glad I was able to travel to the Utsav conference at Asia Plateau, to get to know IofC better and meet a myriad of interesting people. For me, being quite new to IofC, this was like being plunged in the deep end of the pool and learning to swim. I probably made a splash and a mess but was buoyed by the experience and hopefully learned to swim a bit better.

What an amazingly well built place Asia Plateau is, so very functional and well suited for interaction, arts and personal time. Coming there was like coming home, to an inspiring place, and a place to do good work. I travelled to India with Camilla Nelson (Norway), Kinda Kreidi (Syria/Sweden) and Kjersti Webb (Sweden) and it felt a privilege to do this, and to have interesting conversations as we made our way there. 

The conference days were intense, the quiet times plenty and sharing times ample, the plenary sessions a proper mental workout. From 7 in the morning to 9 at night with some breaks in between. There was a sense of urgency, and deliberately open-ended process was pursued. 

What is IofC if it's not a lot of individually guided people with strong opinions, being leaders in their own lives and local settings? I realised that I could view the whole thing as a “United Nations of Purpose”, and this meant that I could embrace the multi-faceted jungle of ideas and directions in a good way. The stories I heard of personal commitment and bravery were off the chart, from Kashmir, Kenya, Beirut, and others. I see this as the real strength of IofC. Absolutely mindblowing. 


These stories are what inspired my videos of hands and eyes [], that I saw life in so many eyes, I saw so many hands with real dirt under their fingernails from local committed work. Sometimes we need to stop talking and start walking and the road will become clear as we do so.

I brought some instruments as well as my camera to Utsav, and contributed to the fellowship with a new song written there, three videos, performance of an old one, as well as a musical meditation. I feel there is some work to done to incorporate arts in Iofc the best way - arts as prophecy, community and process. This can be implemented in a dispersed and bottom up way and can be very powerful. As I am a professional composer I am able to turn my inspiration on when needed and this is what I did as a gift to the community. The family group I was in was the best thing ever, with great people of different ages all being honest. Also the meals were precious times sharing over some good indian food.

At the end of the conference I felt an urge to play some free improvisations during quiet time outside, and took the liberty of doing so. The intention was to inspire the wordless spiritual place and I think this worked for those who listened. If we trust God and give people the license to do what God tells them and give their inner voice the space to do its work, many small, organic and diverse things can happen. This takes a solid portion trust and honesty with out-workings and products being so diverse. In my view if the core of Iofc is stable, with love and honesty built into the structures and processes, other aspects will fall into place. 
Coming home from Asia Plateau took some decompression. India was a totally new experience for me and there was a bit of over-stimulus of different senses, and a lot of processing in plenaries and in quiet times. I am very glad I was given the opportunity to go and I made many new friends and was deeply challenged and inspired. 

For sure it was messy but for sure it had magic also. A good representation of what IofC is I suppose.

All photos by Sveinung Nygaard