Dialogue in the Dark at the Tanween Festival 2019

Last October 2019 the second edition of the Tanween Festival in Saudi Arabia was launched at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

DiD team in front of Ithra building by night

For 3 weeks Dialogue in the Dark experiences were part of the festival’s agenda.

According to Ithra’s Director Ali Al-Mutairi: “Tanween aims to empower the next generation of Saudi creatives and innovators as a catalyst for creative economies and meaningful youth engagement. Tanween introduces new ways of learning, wherein our visitors allow their imagination to play, develop and create within engaging creative spaces.” The focus in the 2nd edition is “play”, and the audience is invited to learn through play.

During the festival, 28 experiences in the dark were offered for visitors plus a keynote speech by DSE’s CEO Andreas Heinecke about the creative process when one cannot see. 700 visitors went through the dark in two different experiences: Dinning in the Dark and an especially tailored Arts in the Dark workshop.

A team of blind facilitators from Germany, England and United States joined to take visitors through this unique learning experience in the dark. Darkness is a means of learning which Milton Erickson, one of the most influential systemic thinkers of our times, could have had in mind when he said: “Until you are willing to be confused about what you already know, what you know will never become wider, bigger or deeper.” Learning through confusion and a radical change of our ‘normal’ context marks THE difference of learning in the dark, compared to “normal” learning experiences.

Learning in the dark is improving, inspiring and lasting, because...

…darkness is a substantial experience: When there is nothing else to be seen we see inner images. Getting in touch with your inner self so quickly is a deeply impressing and unique learning experience.

…darkness expands horizons: Because there is no visual distraction, darkness opens space for new perceptions, ideas and discoveries about oneself or others within a very short time – a unique learning as well as a unique experience.

…darkness delivers highlights for the brain: Lessons in the darkness relate to unique situations, intensive feelings and unexpected reactions. It will be remembered even if repeated.

With the integration of experiences in the dark, the participants of Tanween entered to an unconventional learning journey. They learned a lot about themselves (adaptation, reframing, communication, vulnerability, limits, gratitude, team spirit, listening skills) and others (diversity, inclusion, social justice). All this happened in a non-theoretical and playful way, as it is (serious) fun, and positively reinforces emotions. At the end all people are happy. The “playground in the dark” encourages explorations with fewer constraints as in regular life. No one can see. No one can be seen. This equalizing effect pushes people to be bolder, to act and think out of their routines. In the dark people can only play together. Hence, it’s an effective way to socialize and make friends. Alone you can do nothing. Together you can achieve a lot.

The feedback from visitors was outstanding and we are looking forward to continuing working with Ithra and create more social impact in Saudi Arabia soon.