… is like riding Trojan Horses! Heybeli Island Update

In October 2018, the first series of workshops for this prototype took place off the coast of Istanbul.

In times of crisis; joy of life, playing games, sharing stories and having fun together might be the most political thing that can be done.…is like riding on a Trojan Horse, secretly breaks the ices of isolation and invite people safely to public sphere.

It’s all started in Terni, when Handan, Karsten and Anna burst into cries and hugged each other with sincerity. That sentimentality coming from the words shared in the C-Lab circle, about life, hope and social-political-economical climate surrounds all. From Hungary to Turkey, from Greece to England all worried, indeed.

The tears washed out the gloominess, knowing that: “We are not alone! We are not the only victims! So instead of staying in the mode of suffering, let’s roll our dice and fight together for another step!“

This was the magical core of the prototype “…is like riding Trojan Horses”: To develop subversive and playful methods for people to stay politically/culturally alive in public sphere through games and storytelling.

So Handan the magical storyteller, Karsten the maniac game designer and Anna the most emphatic built environment educator, arrived enthusiastically to the the Heybeli Island, one of the well-known holiday islands of Istanbul, to explore the power of storytelling, games. Together with Yasemin, the care taking ghost, as well as with Maya, a very experienced young connector and workshop facilitator, their aim was to implement playful methods and empower people to formulate and express their opinions, needs, wishes and dreams.

The project team with a poster of an invitation to their event.
The project team with a poster of an invitation to their event.

Heybeli Island is a magical small place with tiny coffees, beautiful architecture and a lot of horses in the public space. While the island is popular among tourists and is crowded during the summer season, we arrived to the place in October when only the inhabitants stay on the island. The autumn days are calm here and life is in contrast with the vivid and sped-up capital which is in sighting distance.

The scenic Heybeli Island.
The scenic Heybeli Island.

The arrival of the project team was quite an issue for the relatively closed community and the original idea of our prototype had to be changed soon after arriving. We realised the importance of taking smaller steps and the first step was simply to connect. Instead of using playful tools for empowerment, our games and stories became essential tools in connecting with the local community and in trust-building processes.

So trust building started with identifying our local partners. The team started to collaborate with the Society of Courage, a group of volunteers with a mission to develop skills of the young girls of the island, and they became our local partner.

The Society works with playful methods such as origamis, games, experiments in the field of science, mathematics, and critical thinking and were open to provide space for our activities in the islands. From late summer on, Handan organized a workshop series to familiarize the girls with games and storytelling while she’s also learning about the island and girls.

For the Society of Courage, Handan introduced “The Story of Fear” as the core of their activities. The tale was a typical “journey of the hero” tale, including all basic steps and crises of life. By imagining the tale in the island, scene by scene, Handan aimed to invite them to the imaginary sphere of stories while keeping in touch with the place they live. After four half-day workshops creating imaginary routes all over the island and with heroes, the girls started the explore various possibilities of storytelling and games. And the bonus, sincere work, especially with kids, is one of the major steps of building trust with the local community.

Handan telling the Story of Fear in the workshop.
Handan telling the Story of Fear in the workshop.

Throughout the workshops with the girls, Handan successfully landed into the local context, however the arrival of Anna and Karsten needed to be prepared. In October, Karsten and Anna arrived for a two-day festival that was organized around the idea of play. On day one, a variety of games and stories were provided to inspire the local community. It was open to all, so families with young children, visitors from other islands and local stakeholders attended the workshop. They took part in our activities that included a tale on a real map, searching for the original rules of a game once played in the islands (Abua), and creating micro-games as well as storytelling for children.

Later on Anna introduced a simple ice breaker game, the Human Knot. This was one of the AHA-moments for our team as we realized the power of touch in trust building processes.

This simple game engages people with problem solving. It starts with the creation of a knot: Players reach out for each other hands randomly and are asked to untangle joined hands without letting go of the hands they are holding.

The game requires observation, collaboration and communication and players should be ready to bend, twist, and move in any way that is required for untangling your knot. Solving the clue required holding hands and simple touches that dissolve physical and mental distances. And the joy of solving the clue together created a sense of community and built bridges between young and old, local and foreigner.

On the second day, the Society of Courage hosted our activities and had the chance to join the process Handan had started. After a short personal introduction Karsten introduced a micro-game for breaking the language barrier between the girls and our international team: Each of us selected an envelope that contained a color or a smiley symbol. Colors were paired with playful tasks and envelop owners were asked to pick a person to fulfill the given instruction such as describing the taste, the atmosphere or the color, or to find objects from that kind.

Envelopes with the smiley required a collaboration of trials. Players rolled dices with various emotional expressions on the sides and were asked to imitate the expressions. The mixture of colors, emotions, expressions, individual challenges and helping each other to find solutions to clues brought the participants closer to each other and we were ready to jump into collaborative creation of games.

Through the preparatory workshops starting with “The Story of Fear”, step by step, girls freed themselves from the tale and start to develop the base of an island-based game. They created a story bringing their own heroes to the island.

Each hero has its strength and weakness determining their behaviour in the game. With the magical power of Lady Greeneye, she can flourish meadows, trees and nature from her hands. However her talent is the source of her weakness, too. When it is too much, she becomes shy and hides herself into a trunk of a tree. We ended the workshop with modelling our personal heroes from clay and gave birth to the characters of the game.

One of the island's heros, Lady Greeneye.
One of the island's heros, Lady Greeneye.

“We could have trusted you sooner."

Reflection from one of the girls on the inclusion of Anna and Karsten.

Inhabitants of the island were very proud of the achievements of the young girls, the stories they told, the games they developed. Local stakeholders were inspired by the use of games as community building methods and became motivated to unfold the old game once played in the island called Abua.

It become possible to continue our prototype on the island and with the girls from the Society of Courage as they continue working on their game idea. By the end of the school year, a game-day will be organized and girls can share the joy of play with the local community. When the day comes, our team hopes to be there and enjoy human warmth, creativity, fun and beauty of sharing.

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