Time has flown since we launched our 2022 programme in peer mentoring for women’s leadership in creative industries and social innovation in February 2022. We kick-started our programme by sending tea and snacks to the mentors and mentees from different countries. We invited everyone to share stories of their favourite beverages and snacks over the online launch event. This had particular meaning.
One of the main features of the DESIAP peer-to-peer mentoring programme is the focus on relationship-building. We as a team have discussed numerous ideas and strategies to support our mentors and mentees in getting to know each other despite being located in different countries and having to communicate through multiple languages, time zones and cultures. We have always returned to the simplicity of sharing food, perhaps because so many of us come from Asian cultures where food-sharing is not only seen as an essential part of the social, but also integral to important rituals and ceremonies. Sharing small gifts, handmade and selected with the recipient in mind as a token of the relationship, has also been part of the project. Again, this partly reflects the importance of gift-giving as an aspect of relationship-building in many Asian cultures.
We are thrilled to see how our mentors and mentees have taken our simple idea much further, including by making their own gifts for sharing amongst their peer-mentoring group. As an example, here we would like to share the exchanges between mentors and mentees artist and curator Akane Nakamori, weaver Amanda Ho, and craft start-up EbRu (Rei Sato, Jumi Tanabe and Eri Sakiyama). Akane and EbRu are based in Kanazawa, Japan, and Amanda in Melbourne, Australia.
In responding to the tea/snack gift exchange idea, Amanda Ho created a series of double-woven tea mats which she sent to her mentor Akane Nakamori and peer mentees EbRu. In Amanda’s words,
‘Double weave consists of two or more warps being woven at the same time on the loom. The layers can interchange along both the warp and weft directions. This made me think of the connection with my mentor and the other mentees in my group. During the zoom meetings, we have conversations: exchanges of ideas, explanations of and story-telling‘.
EbRu responded to Amanda by sending gifts wrapped in hand-marbled paper, sharing a piece of their design aesthetics.
Akane’s response was a piece of ‘musubi’ knot that symbolises creations and connections. ‘Musubi’ (to tie, knot, link, bind, join, combine, connect) is their group philosophy for mentoring. The Japanese word, ‘musubi’ has spiritual connotation to create, develop, and enable all beings.
We will be sharing more examples of these thoughtful processes of gift exchanges as we approach the end of 2022.