Identity, heritage and human rights: opportunities for
expression in our environment
Black Environment Network (BEN) wanted to enable ethnic minority Muslim youth
in Swansea to play a positive role in society by first helping them to develop
a sense of Welsh, British and European identity through practical
BEN South Wales Development Worker worked with a group of young people drawn from a number of Muslim youth groups. Together they explored themes in sustainable development, human rights, citizenship and the environment through a series of workshops. They used materials created by the Council of Europe and DEFRA’s ‘Taking It On’ community activity pack to generate insights for feedback to local community regeneration schemes. From this process emerged a vision to explore ways for Mediterranean heritage to take root in the realities of a Welsh climate.
Common European Heritage
The young people had the idea that they would like to make contact with their peers in Southern Spain, to get inspiration for a multipurpose community centre and multicultural garden. Drawing on Moorish design elements, which are prominent in the Andalusia region, the Welsh youth group hopes to reflect Europe’s common heritage of Islamic influences on the built and natural environment. The name CYAN is drawn from the first two letters of (CY)MRU and (AN)DALUSIA and conjures the vibrant colour featured in much Mediterranean architecture.
Making it happen
In April 2005, 14 young people from a range of backgrounds embarked on a fact-finding
and networking visit to Cordoba, Seville and Gibraltar. Ethnic groups represented
included Singaporean, Iranian, Pakistani, Iraqi, Sudanese, Bangladeshi and Welsh.
The group met with their Spanish counterparts and discussed, in English and Spanish, the influence of the hot climate and the tolerant culture on the design of buildings and gardens – which were often closely integrated in Moorish Spain. They recorded their experiences using video diaries, which they are editing to make a short film to present directly to decision-makers and policy-makers at a public seminar in Wales.
They are now planning to team up with another minority group in Swansea, the local Welsh-speaking youth group, whilst Illiber, amainstream Spanish youth group, is teaming up with the Muslim youths in Granada to cooperate on“The Olive Garden”, a twinning of peace gardens project linking Wales and Spain.
Drawing on language support from the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO) in Swansea, youth in both countries will use the Internet to develop the CYAN Project themes, perhaps by swapping links for web sites on sustainable development issues in Spain and Wales and translating educational resources.
They hope to further embody their cultural bonds by using sustainable development principles to design and create a multipurpose community
centre and multicultural garden in each country, donating centrepieces for one another’s gardens.
In time, it is hoped that the project could lead to a twinning of Swansea with an Andalusian coastal city of a similar size.
This Features is available as a PDF files to download and print.
Connecting Youth Abroad And Nationally (Cyan)