Saturday, 21 January 2012

Tedx Safat, Kuwait: Ideas Worth Spreading.. indeed!

I wasn't supposed to be attending Wednesday night's Tedx Safat Conference. But I did and it was awesome.
I'd received no reply when I emailed to ask if the event was going to be held in English. My friend Sahar (who blogs about her experiences in Kuwait on Eternal Joie de Vivre, go check her out!) found out that it was. Problem solved.

Thank God I emailed, because apparently you had to pre-register. An event organizer asked for our names to tick off a list and I thought with a sinking feeling that I wouldn't be able to sit for it. But it was there!! *fist in the air* (awful rhyming was unintentional, my apologies)

And what did I think? Read on for a succinct account on what each speaker communicated. Words in italics are their words (or close), not mine.

We walked in and found seats just in time to see the first speaker, Dr. Saad Hamad Al Barrak take the stage and start his speech on 'Leading Change', the essence of which was that the purpose of leadership is to impact change. He explained this concept through John P. Kotter's change model below.

I loved his definition on delegation, 'it is nothing but a loan of a power of authority'. An illusion of power if you will.

Dr. Ghanim Alnajjar was the UN Independent Expert on Human Rights in Somalia, appointed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan. He specified that without equality there was no stability and that might and right are never too often on the same side. Seeing the destitution and war-torn lands one wonders, do we live in the same world? The UN did not allow its people to travel by cars in parts of Somalia; the areas were so dangerous and riddled with land mines that workers actually had to use small planes! Tragically the situation in Somalia is far from light, with 300,000 Somalians internally displaced and living in camps.

Sulayman Al-Bassam blew me over. A world-renowned playwright, he tries to foster open-mindedness through his plays. He brought to light the fact that people prefer to express in English, fearing to do so in their native tongue. In 2003, when Iraq was invaded, there were mixed feelings of joy and trepidation in the region - joy at the attempt to overthrow a dictator and trepidation because, well, war is a terrible thing.
He wrote and directed a play in Kuwait at that time, casting Kuwaiti, Iraqi, British and American actors, in an attempt to promote kindred feelings amongst people and put the torrid past behind them. A terrible thing happened on opening night - one of the Kuwaiti actors suddenly died of natural causes backstage while the performance was going on. A member of the audience somehow got wind of the death and announced on stage that the Iraqi actors had 'killed our compatriot'. A ripple of shock went through the audience (the TEDx one) as Sulayman made his point, that in less than a minute, the man had poisoned the idea that we were trying to promote. It was a lesson on how difficult it was to change a society. Questions we ask through our art should help support an open society.

Hussaa Al Humaidhi was a ball of energy! Her fantastic slide show was perfectly synchronized and well coordinated with her speech and the message she wanted to deliver. Her presentation was titled From Frustration to Collaboration to Inspiration (Connecting the Dots). The 'dots' were represented by four creative individuals (in her speech as well as on the slide) frustrated (frustration occurring 'when things are out of your control') with the lack of inspiration in Kuwait, travelled to different countries to find it. They then decided to take matters into their own hands and here's where the collaboration comes in. They founded Nuqat, meaning dots in Arabic, an organization that offers individuals the chance to bring out creativity within the region, taking care of the inspiration factor. They realized too many young designers in the Middle East were uninspired and just mimicking the West. With Nuqat, these entrepreneurs want to encourage designers and other creative individuals remain to true to their Arab identity and find that spark here. She signed off with the well-known and extremely apt quote: Never wait for inspiration, hunt it down with a stick!

Sheikha Intisar Salem Al Ali Al Sabah founded and runs a publishing house. At a bookstore in a neighbouring Gulf country, she noticed the store had books on most countries of the Middle East... except Kuwait. So, she set out to write one! She interviewed Kuwaitis that had made a real difference in the country and through their passion, found her inspiration. She described their contribution in a slideshow while quoting each of them.

I liked the way Mrs. Maha Al-Ghunaim (founder and MD of Global Investment House) began her speech, by stating quite frankly that she moved to the States for Bachelors in Engineering, because it seemed right, as her siblings were engineers. A year later she switched her major to mathematics because she loved it and hated engineering. Move where your passion is. After completing her degree, she moved back to Kuwait in August to look for work. An HR manager of an elite investment firm told her to go on vacation to Switzerland with her parents and that they didn't hire women (scumbag company). Twelve years later, I became the boss of his boss. YEAH!! *round of applause*
She ended saying something simple and profound that I've pondered on a lot in the past two days, and I hope I never forget it. At the end of each day, think, 'did I give it my all?' Give the best you can be at that point to everything and do it regularly. She ended with the quote: Giving it your all, is not too far from victory.

We left then, her words echoing in my head.
Actually, they still are.

I hope someone uploads the videos on youtube, I'd love to hear Sulayman Al Bassam's speech again as well as the last two we missed by Dr. Ahmad BouShehri and Khaled Al-Kulaib. Kudos to Dana Al-Hilal and her team for a wonderful event and the fantastic choice of speakers. I was completely unaware as to the brilliance of these people. The message each one of them gave, especially the latter ones has touched me differently. Why do we need to look to world famous, far removed personalities for motivation when we have very worthy ones right here?

Note: I tried to get their words down verbatim but it wasn't possible for all. If any of the above mentioned ever read this (hey it could happen) and feel I got the wrong idea, I am profusely sorry, I was lost in your awesomeness : (

(If you'd like to see pictures, check out the ones by The Dusty Co. here)


  1. I was there too.Thanks for penning so lucidly.Will pass on ....

  2. How did you like it?
    Do you have a blog? Your profile doesn't seem to be public.
    Thanks for the comment and for passing it on :)

  3. Hi Dear,
    This is me Jackline, one of TEDxSafat’ team, firstly, I’d like to thank you for your stirring words about the event,

    Please accept our apology for not receiving reply to your inquiry, replies were immediately sent but due to the hundreds of e-mails, that were being sent out and received daily, we have faced a problem in our server hindered sending out all e-mails properly!

    Regarding the talks, it would be downloaded to YouTube shortly,
    Hope to see you again in all our initiatives…

  4. Hi Jackline, thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it :) I understand it the response must have been overwhelming. I'm glad I could attend!
    Good luck with future events.


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