Friday, April 15, 2016


On: Moving Sideways

I first heard this term ‘moving sideways’ about 12 years ago when I was teaching adults recovering from mental illness.

The IV (Internal Verifier) was looking through student folders and marking them off against the set assessment criteria. After completing the batch she gave me feedback which included this suggestion of moving sideways. Progression for this particular group of learners was crucial, as part of their rehabilitation process. However, there were many barriers to learning which made progression upwards (onto the next level) a challenge for some of them. Regular changes in medication and associated side effects; a possible relapse; learning difficulties; low level of literacy – all made it our number one priority to find a solution which would help our learners. Moving them sideways would enable them to continue attending a course of learning. It would allow them to set and complete a goal relatively quickly (since our courses were short), and ultimately increase their self esteem – all of which contributed towards their eventual recovery. As a result I wrote a course which was different but not necessarily at a higher level, students enrolled, enjoyed it, achieved and hurrah!

This concept of moving sideways (or sideward – whichever you fancy) helped me immensely in my career as I moved into mentoring and chaplaincy in the after years. I am glad that it didn’t remain just in my work life though. The IV (who retired but whom I am still in touch with) taught me a wise lesson without even realising it. Increasingly over the years I have found it a useful tool to use this concept in other aspects of my life.

In the last five years, so many big changes have happened in my life – some happy ones and some not so. One question has returned to me again and again – what is happening with the art? The art? Art? ART!?!

And I have found direction through looking back at the moving sideways advice.

The Muslim art scene (in Britain) has moved on so much in these past five years whilst I have been undergoing my own metamorphosis. We now have so many creative people out there working on different mediums that I struggle to keep on top of the latest happenings within the ‘scene’. Almost daily boundaries are being shifted; exhibitions are happening; new and newer FB pages are appearing from the very creative minds of Muslims...

It can all get very loud at times.

So what is happening with the art?
I am going sideways with it.

I have thought so many times over the last few years about paint, stitch and canvas. Galleries, submissions and exhibition proposals. And then about my own situation: where I am as a human being? What role do I play in this society? Where is me as an entity in this cosmos? What goes on in my heart? What about my soul? Are my heart, mind, body, soul really in sync?

I remember coming across an article with an exciting title detailing tips on how to make art if you have a busy lifestyle. My eyes fixated at the screen as I scrolled down. But sheer disappointment at the suggestion to spend less time on cooking, house-keeping and even contacting loved ones!

Tranquilart is as much a philosophy as it is ‘artwork’. The challenge is to live that philosophy. It may not manifest itself onto canvas and paint – and because I am going sideways with it that’s alright I tell myself.

This concept can help us during those junctures of life where we feel somewhat stuck. It can let us look at our deeper motives and intentions which in my humble opinion is not a bad thing. Soul searching often leads to a renewed motivation to fulfil aspirations. Although be warned it does need courage and honesty. The net result helps discover and open newer doors which may not have been considered previously. Some people may call it a type of reflection. But it’s role in dealing with societal pressures to ‘achieve’ particular things is considerable.

I have had the great privilege to meet individuals during their most vulnerable states - though everyone's circumstances have differed, there has always been a breakthrough in their situation in the end. A testimony that no problem is too great for God to solve. And a testimony that thinking about moving sideways can yield newer solutions and avenues to follow. If this generates optimism, than that can only be a good thing.

I no longer equate moving forward with moving upwards. I believe that we can move forward in any given life situation, though it may not be in the manner everyone else appears to be moving.

* Making paper with my 3 and 4 year old neices who were amazed that paper comes from trees. 

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