A day of talks, inspiration, networking and therapy at TEDxLAU
LAU’s Safadi Fine Arts building and its courtyard were transformed into a haven of social and inspirational interaction as part of the third annual TEDxLAU event that took place last month.
“TEDxLAU is multi-disciplinary; there’s something for everyone. An audience member might not, and probably cannot, connect to every single speaker, but the experience as a whole enriches our connection to ideas worth spreading, despite our preferences and biases. It’s the momentary suspension of judgment and the willingness to listen that makes these events unique and worthwhile,” said LAU instructor Reine Azzi, the curator and host of TEDxLAU.
Walking through the maze of stands that made up the outdoor social space, designed by two LAU graduates in architecture, the event’s four hundred guests were invited to contemplate their strengths, share their fears, and consider their futures through a plethora of interactive activities.
Past the courtyard lay the Safadi building, home to the Gulbekian Theatre where thirteen speakers stood, sat, kneeled and danced on a circular red carpet synonymous with TED events worldwide.
Psychologist Sami Moukaddem spoke about his battle with depression, singer Naima Shalhoub about being violated in her youth and clown doctor Cynthya Karam about the dying children whose suffering she witnesses.
In the spirit of TED talks, each speaker brought with them messages of strength and inspiration. With the tales of woe came lessons on overcoming trials and tribulations, challenges and taboos.
Karam brought tears and smiles to everyone’s eyes as she reenacted a scene from the hospital bed of Rasha, a young cancer patient she had visited while participating in season one of Star Academy. Speaking about inner-strength, Karam declared that “atoms are invisible but combined they are unbreakable,” before welcoming Rasha, now older and healthy, to the stage. The theatre filled with gasps, cheers and applause.
Similarly, the mantra of cancer survivor TEDxLAU speaker Sara Khatib drew a standing ovation and has been shared on many an LAU student’s Facebook wall since. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” she said.
Adding a sense of theatre was male bellydancer Moe Khansa who challenged us to reconsider our notions of gender with an enthralling and interactive performance. His courage and fearlessness at breaking cultural norms visibly moved and inspired the audience.
Conceptualizing and developing the activities, sourcing sponsors and auditioning and rehearsing with speakers was no small feat. “As the biggest university event in Lebanon, the challenge has always been to work within our community, ensuring LAU students are part of the process from start to finish, providing all the volunteer organizers with the opportunity to work on an event that follows international guidelines, within the comfort of our own campus,” said Azzi, who teaches English and Moral Reasoning.
Twenty TEDxLAU volunteers donning black t-shirts were omnipresent throughout the day and comprised LAU students, alumni and faculty. With red noses on their faces, they handed out bags of color to departing guests who then gathered across from the seven-meter-long blackboard on which people had been writing down the things they would like to let go of.
“We turned a black wall with messages reflecting all that’s wrong in the world into hope by splashing it with color,” enthused Nancy, an attendee. “It was a super funny and therapeutic activity,” agreed fellow color-enthusiast Soha.