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And that’s a wrap! TEDx Canberra over for another year

Kaylia Payne

I’m sure that most of you a familiar with ‘TED talks’ – I, myself have found it hard to go a week without coming across a particularly inspiring one shared by a friend on Facebook.

But for those that have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, and are feeling quite confused as to who this Ted guy is, TED is a not for profit organisation that focuses on sharing ideas across the globe.

While this idea-sharing can be done through many mediums, including community projects, it is the short talk (18 minutes or less) that is most commonly given at TED conferences and then uploaded onto the TED website for the rest of the world to see and become inspired.

TEDx is basically the same thing, but is not run through TED itself. Rather, TEDx events are run by independent organisers and base their events around the TED conference format. What makes TEDx talks particularly special is that they have a strong focus on the local community.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to sit among the 600 strong audience at TEDx Canberra and let me tell you, it was experience I’m keen to repeat.

“I have never been before and I feel like I should moderate my expectations, because I’m far too excited”, the women seated next to me whispered before it began, and I knew exactly what she meant. There was a sense of anticipation in the air and everyone was either craning forward waiting for it to begin, or re-reading the program for the hundredth time that day.

What was also different about this event was the sense of community that was present even before the talks had begun. Everyone was smiling at one another and strangers were falling into animated conversations as if they had known each other their whole lives.

Though the friendly and open atmosphere made it worth going to just for that, the talks themselves were interesting, eye opening and downright inspiring. The best thing about TEDx was that there was something for everyone. Music, art, dance, psychology, science, technology, sociology and everything in between was shared with new and interesting ideas coming out of all of them. These included talks around the importance of music education before the age of seven (Spoiler Alert: it improves cognitive function, language ability and problem-solving skills); demonstrations from the two much loved Australian personalities of The Curiosity Show; to talks on how to support local farmers and prevent food wastage.

Creative Commons - Fever Picture

Creative Commons – Gavin Blake, Fever Picture

And I haven’t even scratched the surface.

While I found all of the talks fascinating, there were two that really stood out to me. The first (and incidentally the first one of the day) was given by Shane Horsburgh, an ex-cop turned musical theatre aficionado who spoke about redefining masculinity.

Having written for a feminist magazine for a few years, I had thought myself quite well versed on the impact of gender stereotyping. However, my knowledge of the impact that gender stereotyping has on males has come predominantly through articles penned by women, for the simple reason that men don’t often write about it themselves (my husband thinks that this is because guys are told not to talk about their feelings, so writing blog posts or articles about their emotions probably isn’t something most are keen to do). While I thought this was sufficient, after hearing a guy speak openly about his experiences and the social pressure put on men to act tough, take risks and be dominant, I have gained new insight into just how detrimental societies warped perception of masculinity is on both men and women. While the subject itself was interesting, it was Shane’s delivery that remained with me. He used his personal stories; some funny and some heartbreakingly not to talk about the deeper issues at hand in order to get the listener to question whether the preconceived ideas about masculinity that we continue to hold have any real place in modern society.

Creative Commons - Gavin Blake, Fever Picture

Creative Commons – Gavin Blake, Fever Picture

The other talk that I loved was given by Khadija Gbla, a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She didn’t just speak about the actual experience itself, though her descriptions of her terrified 10-year-old self being held down in a hut in the middle of the bush were enough to leave even the most stoic member of the audience in tears, but also of the lasting repercussions of FGM. There were not only the physical scars and complications from the procedure, which include cysts and infertility, but also the emotional ones. She told of going to a therapist because she was worried it would make her asexual, her fears that she was somehow a mutilated person and wasn’t a ‘real woman’, and her feelings of being invaded in the most sacred way.

Creative Commons - Gavin Blake, Fever Picture

Creative Commons – Gavin Blake, Fever Picture

Khadija shares her story of FGM in the hopes of spreading awareness about it and stopping other girls from going through the same trauma that she has experienced, as well as to encourage other survivors to speak out. It was an eye-opening talk by a brave and passionate woman, and I urge you to sign her petition here calling on the Prime Minister to protect Australian girls from FGM.

While I would love to give you a blow-by-blow description of every single talk, I would never be able to do them justice. Luckily I don’t have to, as you can view every talk Saturday’s TEDx Canberra online. I highly suggest that you put an afternoon aside and watch them – even those that you think won’t be of interest – because I can guarantee that you will not only learn something new, but also enjoy the process along the way.

Gavin Blake from Fever Picture has a knack for capturing the essence of the spoken word and transforming it into a graphical illustration for those who learn a little differently. The above images are just a sliver of his creative talent with the rest available over on the TEDx Canberra Facebook page. 

Kaylia Payne

Kaylia is a career-student who is currently doing her MA in Writing and Literature. A student/office assistant by day and a blogger by night, she dreams of one day having a job where she doesn’t need to wear shoes to work. Read more of her fabulous work here.

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