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Brandeis University | International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Peacebuilding and the Arts: Exploring the contributions of arts and culture to peace
July 2022

Dear friends of Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis,

Greetings at this time marked by both heartbreak and possibility. We offer this newsletter in the spirit of solidarity with all those working for a safer, more just, more creative, more sustainable world. 

We begin with a listing of upcoming human rights film festivals, inspiring in their breadth and range. 

Then, we continue our series based on IMPACT’s Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash report, this time focusing on artistic and cultural processes that evoke change by supporting honest expression and by nourishing and deepening capacities to tolerate paradox and ambiguity. Stories recently gathered in on-line story circles bring the concept of ‘evocation’ elucidated in the report to the present moment, offering insight into the lives of people dislocated in Colombia and elsewhere. We began to explore how artists and cultural workers could address the current communicative context in the United States, where so many people “honestly” believe untruths. 

Brandeis graduate students contributed an article about an ambitious ‘Culture of Sustainability Walking Tour,’ offering a description and assessment of their efforts, and an invitation to readers of the e-newsletter to consider developing walking tours in their own communities or on their own campuses.

Three decades ago, Toni Shapiro-Phim videotaped Cambodian dancers as they revived the richly spiritual dance tradition that the Khmer Rouge had tried to obliterate. Recently, she secured a grant to have these tapes
digitized. In this newsletter, she shares compelling highlights from her recent trip to Cambodia, where the hard drive of the digitized tapes was ceremoniously received and those depicted in the tapes – including some now in their 80’s – rose to dance. 

In this newsletter, the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts announces a translation into Ukrainian of our documentary Acting Together on the World Stage: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict, with a link for free downloads, and another link to submit proposals for translations into other languages.

In the face of the severity of the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, the ‘Opportunities and Resources’ section of this edition of the newsletter features a timeline of musicians speaking out and taking action against gun violence since the 1970s.  We hope this and the other resources mentioned here inspire and nourish your on-going work in, and in support of, the arts, culture and conflict transformation field. 

Wishing you all the strength and creativity to match the many challenges of the moment,

Armine Avetisyan, Cindy Cohen, and Toni Shapiro-Phim

As part of the project Un lugar en el mundo (A Place in the World), transgender women in Bogotá, Colombia, embrace and publicly celebrate the ambiguity of their position, simultaneously inside and outside of mainstream society, by placing themselves in relationship to other “extra-ordinary” women – nuns venerated in spectacular portraits on the walls of the Museums of the Banco de la República. (Portrait of Daniela Maldonado; Liliana Parra, photographer; Sebastián Mesa, art direction; copyright Banco de la República; 2018)
Art Evokes!
By Cindy Cohen, Co-Director, Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University

What is it about the nature of engagement with artistic and cultural processes such that they can be crafted to contribute to the constructive transformation of complex challenges? This article is the third in a series of four, each exploring a dimension of the transformative power of aesthetic engagement. For an overview of the project, and particular consideration of the invitational and affirming qualities of artistic and cultural initiatives, please see the essays “Art Invites” from the February 2022 edition of this e-newsletter and “Art Affirms” from the May 2022 edition.

In the current issue, we are exploring the qualities of artistic and cultural processes that evoke change by supporting honest expression and by nourishing and deepening capacities to tolerate (and even embrace) paradox and ambiguity. Such qualities of expression and capacities are necessary to negotiate complex systems. This essay draws on the Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash Report, and on a set of stories collected in recent virtual story circles convened to consider, in relation to the current moment,  the significance of art’s power to evoke.

Photo courtesy of Rubryka
A Selection of Upcoming Human Rights Festivals

Festival de Cine MÁS (Nicaragua)
1 August – 30 September
Festival de Cine MÁS was founded as a response to the non-existence of a human rights discourse in schools, colleges, universities and public spaces in the country, and focuses on the strengthening of critical thinking among young people.

Red Carpet Human Rights Film Festival (Palestine)
11 – 17 August
A festival of feature films, documentaries and shorts which focus on human rights issues in Palestine.

Festival Internacional de Cine de los Derechos Humanos “El séptimo ojo es tuyo” (Bolivia)
29 August – 4 September
The selected films highlight issues of memory and hope.

Moorehouse College Human Rights Film Festival (USA)
20 – 24 September
Promoting understanding and appreciation for world cultures, artistic and creative expression, and a commitment to global issues and social justice, this event takes place on the campus of what is known as an HBCU in the United States – an Historically Black College or University.

Learn about more festivals.

art installation - a wire tree
The Tree of Hope Installation created by Harsha Bhamidipati and Kobi Russell with help from several friends.
Culture of Sustainability Walking Tour

By Gabriella Lanzi and Naomi Oyler, in collaboration with Harsha Bhamidipati, Anna Kelma, and Kobi Russell

During the first four or five months of this year, a group of five students from Brandeis University created a walking tour designed to inspire participants to discover, imagine, and create cultures of sustainability. The idea for this project emerged from a course taught in the fall of 2021 by Professor Cynthia Cohen, co-director of the Brandeis Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, with guest instruction from Professor Polly Walker, former Director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College.  The course was based on a report prepared by IMPACT that investigated the contributions of ethical arts and cultural practices in meeting and transforming some of the biggest challenges in the 21st Century. As part of the final project for the course we were asked to collaboratively prepare a hypothetical creative arts action based on some of the theoretical frameworks presented in the report, namely: cultures of sustainability, the value of systemic wisdom, and the power of arts and culture to invite participation, affirm dignity and interdependence, evoke curiosity, and to unleash creativity and agency.

In the following article, we, the creators of the project, reflect on our experience with the hope of lighting a spark of interest for others who might want to create something similar. 

art installation - a wire tree
Sampeah kru ceremony, honoring spirits and teachers of the dance, in Cambodia. May 2022. Photo by Choulay Mech
A Newly Digitized Archival Collection Documents Post-Genocide Cambodian Dance Practice

By Toni Shapiro-Phim, Co-Director,   Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University

Hundreds of hours of videotape that I took three decades ago have recently been digitized, and placed in a public archive so that Cambodian dancers and, indeed, anyone interested in the footage, can access it. I received a grant in 2021 to have the videotapes that I shot while undertaking dissertation research, both in Site 2 Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand (on the border with Cambodia) and inside Cambodia in the early 1990s, digitized. In May of 2022 I traveled to Cambodia to place a hard drive with the digital files at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital.

art installation - a wire tree
Still from the documentary
Acting Together Documentary is now available in Ukrainian! 

The Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, in partnership with Allison Lund, co-director of the Acting Together On the World Stage documentary film, has produced a version with Ukrainian subtitles. It is available for download at no cost through 2022.

The documentary tells the stories of performances enacted to build peace. In it, artists and peacebuilders offer vivid firsthand accounts and analyses of peacebuilding performances that speak truths in the face of denial, restore dignity in the face of violation, and build bridges of respect where relationships have been broken. 

The translation was made possible by a generous gift from Elaine Reuben (Brandeis ’63), who has steadfastly supported Acting Together translation and dissemination activities for many years. 

Currently, the translation of the documentary into Russian and Khmer is underway.

To submit a proposal for a translation of the film into other languages, please fill in this form to express your interest.

Festival poster
Festival poster. Source: www.blackstarfest.org/ 
Upcoming Events 

BlackStar Film Festival, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
3 - 7 August (in-person and online)
“BlackStar creates the spaces and resources needed to uplift the work of Black, Brown and Indigenous artists working outside of the confines of the genre… We prioritize visionary work that is experimental in its aesthetics, content and form and builds on the work of elders and ancestors to imagine a new world. We elevate artists who are overlooked, invisibilized or misunderstood and celebrate the wide spectrum of aesthetics, storytelling and experiences that they bring.”

Residency on Creative Practice and Activism in the Context of Conflict and Oppression, Oslo, Norway

15 August - 9 September
“On 15 August, The Peace Research Institute of Oslo, PRAKSIS and artist Motaz Habbash will kick off a month-long residency with ten artists whose creative practices respond to lived experiences of conflict and oppression. This residency seeks to create a space for exploration of the themes: "Repression – Expression // Violence – Creative Resistance" and participating artists will form a temporary community. It is underpinned by PRIO's ongoing research project INSPIRE which investigates creative practice and activism in contexts of war. The artists participating include Iman Jabrah, Ayman AlAzraq, Yanina Zaichanka, Yamile Calderon, Jad El Koury, Diala Brisly, Nastassja Nefjodov, Tania Canas, Daria Pugachova, and Khalid Shatta.”

Besieged Voices From Ukraine, New York, USA 
31 August, 12:00-1:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (via Zoom)
“Russia's attack on Ukraine has caused the death and injury of thousands, the forced flight of millions, and the physical destruction of cities and towns. Journalist Maria Avdeeva, public historian and Jewish heritage specialist Sasha Nazar, and poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan will address the complexities of lives disrupted and the experience of unfolding war from the perspectives of their three professions.” Presented by the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, City University of New York.

Indigenous Theatre Festival, Coast Salish Territory, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
16-18 September
"The Indigenous Theatre Festival seeks to support the efforts of artists working to invigorate their languages through the medium of theatre. By hosting this festival in collaboration with the Hul'q'umi'num' Language and Culture Society, Hul'q'umi'num' Language Academy, Simon Fraser University Indigenous Language Program, and Royal Roads University, we seek to show respect for actors from BC and other territories who perform in their own languages. In the workshops and panels, we hope to strengthen the network for exchanging research-based knowledge on best practices of using theatre as a tool for language reawakening."

7-9 October  
The Buffer Fringe is an annual festival with a mission to prioritize peacebuilding and social justice, organized by Home for Cooperation, and situated in the buffer zone of Nicosia.

National Storytelling Festival, Tennessee, USA
7 - 9 October
The International Storytelling Center (ISC) celebrates the 50th annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, the most prestigious storytelling festival in the country and a benchmark for storytelling events around the world.
ISC is now accepting applications for Merle Davis Story Listener Scholarships. The scholarships will cover registration fees and a travel stipend for two special listeners to attend the National Storytelling Festival in October. There will also be additional scholarships available for workshops and virtual tickets.

Photo courtesy of Prince Claus Fund. 
Opportunities and Resources
Open Call Mentorship Building Beyond #2
Deadline: 4 August
The Creative Industries Fund NL and The Prince Claus Fund invite designers, makers, artists, thinkers, and architects from the African continent to define the future of public space and community on the growing African continent by activating the imagined possibilities of their local context. Building Beyond is an invitation to dream new realities into being. The final goal is to reimagine the future of African cities through design and spatial practice.

A Timeline of Musicians Speaking Out and Taking Action Against Gun Violence in the U.S.
By Al Shipley, Billboard 
Following the response from the music world in the wake of recent horrific shooting tragedies, this resource provides a look back at artists who have, since the 1970s, taken a stand against gun violence and for increased gun control.

A (Re)generation of Artists/Artists at Work
“Launched with the support of the Mellon Foundation by The Office Performing Arts + Film, a New York- and London-based cultural production company, the premise of Artists At Work is simple, yet uncommon: the program pays emerging creatives a living wage (with benefits, to boot) for up to a year. Their job description? Make beautiful art and use that art to activate and inspire a community.”

Ukrainian Artists Illustrate Moscow’s Brutality Amidst War – video
CBS News
Ukrainian illustrators represent the unspeakable, with their artwork auctioned in support of Ukraine and its displaced people.

The Art of Un-War – film
The Art of Un-War is a documentary film by Maria Niro that follows Krzysztof Wodiczko, a renowned artist and educator who uses art, design, and technology to draw attention to the plights of war veterans and displaced people.  Available through New Day Films, the movie is an in-depth exploration of Wodiczko’s life and the art interventions he creates as powerful responses to the inequities and horrors of war and injustice. To preview the film, contact unwarfilm@gmail.com and request a preview link.

Explore more resources and opportunities.

1 August – 30 September
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Peacebuilding and the Arts Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Brandeis University
415 South Street | MS 086 | Waltham, MA 02454-9110

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