zusa (back then Tandem) and I had our first encounter in 2014. I was the commissioned photographer to document a day of a Tandem Shaml meeting and was immediately taken by the genuine atmosphere radiating warmth and an energetic facilitation. I came formally dressed for a professional commission and left embraced like a friend. Little did I know what will follow. The team of MitOst on the other hand cheered that they had finally image material that brought joy to work with for the MitOst Magazine. What followed for the next – by now almost – 10 years: No distant documentation but embodied storytelling of what happened in varying venues and cities. A representation of the collective fever curve (Hello Dugnad) of the meetings and at times transformative exchange for the participants during the course of the program.
I remember a Kick-off meeting in Beirut – my first meeting abroad – during the first rallies in Beirut in 2015 leading up to the revolution. We heard the sounds of the marches in the neighborhood, the air hot and sticky after a previous sandstorm, and almost everyone in the group going down with a virus, passing out between the sessions and the interference of usual power cuts. Real fever curves but undiminished spirits nevertheless. That set the tone for the years to come to accompany the “Tribe” Shaml meetings and planted my personal love for Beirut. The city called me back several times afterward. I do also remember a meeting of Tandem Europe on the greek island Ai Stratis – not only dancing in the rain of a sudden storm; because work, content, and celebration are always interwoven – but listening to memories and (post) war generation reflections of colleagues within that group. I had tears in my eyes from just being with the group, listening, and observing the meaningful space such togetherness can create. And how important sharing and listening are in a world of speeding complexities. I often had tears in my eyes behind the camera witnessing the final reflection round.
At times I would have loved to apply myself. Finally, the documentation of Tandem 360° unexpectedly paired me with the Egyptian colleague and filmmaker Mohammad El Hadidi. We started as a commissioned team and were soon perceived as the additional Tandem in the program. Righteously so. The documentation trip to Lebanon and Egypt gifted us an intensity of exchange, collaboration, long honest breakfast & dinner conversations, a lasting playlist from on the road, sleep-deprived goofiness at airports, the ability to conscious communication, and quick reconnection after stressful moments while navigating and reflecting on different cultural connotations and perceptions. What a match!
The zusa team profoundly raised my awareness of facilitation.
I appreciate the professional but personal climate.
The ability to be permeable and progressive.
I simply love to work with people who love doing their work.
Who show up with concern and care, contagious and collegial, with passion and patience.
And who create safe spaces and lasting connections as a counter-narrative in a world with growing resentments and right winged ideologies.
From what I observed as a photographer I only know a few programs that are so down-to-earth and the team members so approachable.
(For the purposes of fairness I shout out to Sophia, Hatem and Julian from the past team too).