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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
November 2022

Dear Friends of Peacebuilding and the Arts,

As we were putting this issue of our newsletter together, the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winners were announced. This year the Prize was awarded to those who “document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power.” The laureates include human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, and the human rights organizations Memorial (in Russia), and the Center for Civil Liberties (in Ukraine), who all, at tremendous risk, defend the right to criticize those in power, and call vital attention to state-sponsored oppression and violence. (Bialiatski has been imprisoned in his own country since 2020, following protests against the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and a Russian court has reportedly ordered, hours after the Peace Prize was publicized, that Memorial's Moscow office "become state property.") We applaud the laureates’ work, and wish to both amplify it, and expand the spotlight to some additional regions experiencing crisis and conflict at this moment.

We open with a list of efforts and events, most spearheaded by women, that address the impacts of climate change, military aggression, and persecution and subjugation. Pakistan has recently suffered absolutely devastating flooding, with fully a third of the country estimated to be under water. Iran is reeling from the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody, after her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code for women. In Myanmar, the terror and repression wielded by the military, who took complete power following a February 2021 coup d’état, has resulted (thus far), according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, in the deaths of more than 2,000 civilians, including children, and the arrests of at least 12,000. And the war in the Tigray area of Ethiopia is one of the deadliest -- and least reported -- conflicts on earth. In the face of each of these crises, women are confronting danger and injustice, or coordinating aid, through innovation, cultural expression, and courage.

We are happy to be including a piece about a remarkable taiko ensemble in Osaka, Japan, written by ethnomusicologist Terada Yoshitaka. In it, we discover how members of the Buraku community have been confronting discrimination through the performance of a revered art form. 

IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture, and Conflict Transformation) continues its collaborations with the Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival in Cyprus, and the Cultural Affairs division of the Central Bank of Colombia: The Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival returned last month, and, in an essay by the Festival team, we learn of the new ways this annual event was brought into being this time. Separately, Armine Avetisyan reports on the latest developments in a capacity-building project for small non-profit organizations throughout Colombia.

Our closing essay of this issue is actually the final of four articles, one included in each PBA Now issue of 2022, that explore a dimension of the transformative power of aesthetic engagement. Here, Dr. Cynthia Cohen, in conversation with others, discusses the qualities of artistic and cultural processes that unleash creativity, agency, courage, and imagination, so pivotal to dealing with the 21st century’s complex challenges.

We hope you’ll find inspiration and useful materials in our “Upcoming Events” and “Opportunities, Resources, and Reports” sections.

We’d love to hear from you,

Toni, Armine, and Cindy

Rahel Yifter/Fiyorina, photo courtesy of the artist
Women and Creativity in the Face of War, and on the Frontlines of Protest and Aid

Rahel Yifter/Fiyorina /ላኣኽኒ New Tigray Music 2022 (official Music Video)
Rahel Yifter/Fiyorina’s newest song (Give Me a Purpose) shares a longing that she and other Tigrayans have to serve their people. “I’ll be honored to do whatever it takes,” the lyrics proclaim. Tigray has been the site of horrific violence since 2020, with the Ethiopian military and allies fighting against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party ruling Ethiopia’s northern region. Just last month, The Guardian reported that “Eithiopia’s Northern Tigray region is enduring probably the most brutal and deadly war being waged in the world today.” A human rights defender, Rahel nurtures the honoring of Tigrayan cultural heritage through Deamat Heritage, an organization focused on promoting historical and cultural events. Among other activities that are important to her, Rahel says, “I am happiest when organizing the annual Ashenda Festival in Washington, D.C., which is about celebrating beauty/sisterhood for women and girls. When living in the diaspora, far away from home, celebrating culture keeps us alive.” Rahel sings of the possibility for joy that people find in both traditions and community. They do this in the context of displacement and, for those in Tigray, ongoing danger.
Mother/ዓደይ/ኣደይ is mentioned in the song: The word “mother” in Tigrinya refers to both a parent/mom and one's homeland. (On November 2, mediators for Ethiopia's federal government and rebels from the country's northern Tigray region signed a permanent cessation of hostilities. However, according to National Public Radio, “one major player in the conflict — the neighboring nation of Eritrea — wasn't involved in the negotiations, which raises questions about the lasting power of the truce.”)

Artists Raise $85K for Relief in Flood-Stricken Pakistan

Hyperallergic, Rhea Nayyar
“Works by over 70 artists of the pan-South Asian diaspora were up for auction to help Pakistan’s most vulnerable communities in a women- and queer-led initiative.”

This is why an Italian protest folk song is going viral as Iranian women lead protests

SBS News
“An Italian protest folk song which gained prominence during World War II as an anthem of resistance against the Nazi regime and fascism is being revived. This time it is being used to convey resistance against authorities in Iran over the treatment of women.”

Inspiring Myanmar: Chuu Wai – An Artist With Baggage

Burmese artist Chuu Wai presented a talk about her work and her life as an artist as part of the INSPIRE Seminar Series of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (Norway) in September, 2022.
“Following the 2021 Coup in Myanmar, Chuu was instantly and creatively involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations against the coup through her ‘Write for Rights’ initiative. Her political artistic activism eventually forced her to flee from Myanmar to seek refuge in France. Before she fled, she managed to smuggle out her artwork and send it to Ukraine, where she planned to settle down and start anew. Political events again interfered in her life as her art got stuck in Ukraine due to the war. Chuu is now based in Paris, where she continues to develop her artistic practice to support the revolution against the military in Myanmar.” Watch the recording of her presentation.

Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists (exhibition)
Eastern Connecticut Art Gallery, USA
“Women at War: 12 Ukrainian Artists, an exhibition by contemporary Ukrainian women artists, open[ed] at Eastern Art Gallery [in the U.S. state of Connecticut] at a time of extraordinary destruction and disruption in their country. Two of the exhibiting artists remain in Ukraine, others have only recently left the country. These artists proclaim their right to exist as Ukrainians under the shadow of the untold violence, destruction, and death Russia has inflicted. They echo the struggles of persecuted minorities around the globe whether Dalits in India, Uyghurs in China, or African Americans. While in the West decolonization is a long-time subject of extensive theorizing, Ukrainian artists decolonize in full view of a global audience. We are yet to witness more provocative decolonial art-making by the victims of war.” See individual pieces in the exhibition.

art installation - a wire tree
The Kizuna Ensemble, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, 2022. Photo by Terada Yoshitaka
Taiko Drumming and the Buraku Community in Osaka, Japan

By Terada Yoshitaka, Professor Emeritus, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan

Taiko is a style of ensemble drumming which began in the 1950s in post-war Japan. Since then, it has developed into an exponentially popular genre of performing arts, and literally thousands of groups are actively engaged in performance today. Professional groups have emerged and some are internationally acclaimed, but they represent a tiny fraction of taiko culture in Japan, in which the vast majority of players remain non-professional. Their deep involvement derives primarily from personal satisfaction based on the physicality of taiko playing and a joy of making powerful music together.

art installation - a wire tree
From Teaser Campaign series POCKET/HEADS, by young visual artist Ozan Tezvaran. Photo Credit: Buffer Fringe
Immersing audiences in ‘pockets’ of arts and exploration!

By the Buffer Fringe Festival Team

The Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival returned for its 9th edition, with a renewed commitment to its mission of social justice and peacebuilding. Through the transformative power of the arts, an innovative collaborative structure, and international participation, Buffer Fringe 2022 – organized by the Home for Cooperation – featured collaborative original artistic work from Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Lebanon, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
In a unique collaboration with IMPACT and Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, the Thinking Partners Program we’ve been experimenting with creates a system of artistic support and collective practice integral to the alignment of our work with our mission. This year, as a part of this program, our artistic team worked with International Community Arts Festival of Rotterdam (ICAF) collaborators Jasmina Ibrahimovic, Anamaria Cruz, and Amy Gowen to tackle curatorial themes of audience reception/engagement, conflict transformation, and identity/community relative to BF2022’s theme of “Pockets (beyond).”

art installation - a wire tree
Still from the zoom training
Supporting grassroots actors within the arts, culture, and conflict transformation field in Colombia

In 2021-2022 the Cultural Affairs team of the Central Bank of Colombia/Banrepcultural de Colombia partnered with IMPACT and Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts to organize project design workshops for grassroots organizations in Colombia working at the nexus of arts, culture, and conflict transformation. The initiative was a response to the need formulated by the organizations themselves in an earlier convening coordinated by the Bank’s Cultural team in 2020, right before the pandemic hit. 
Cecilia Campos Villafani, of Bolivia, designed and led the workshops offering a learning and sharing space for the representatives of nine organizations from Colombia. 
In a context of various forms of political oppression in Kenya, citizens have experienced, according to Bonface Beti, a “sensual numbing and erasure of peoples’ ability to openly dialogue and use critical thinking to engage with power structures to gain agency over their own lives”. Here, Amani People’s Theatre “consolidates grassroots imaginaries and everyday agencies” as a way of unleashing creativity through which people are addressing issues of concern, including election-related violence, trauma, land struggles, ethnic clashes, police brutality, gender-based violence and revenge.
Photo Credit: Amani People’s Theatre
Art Unleashes!
By Cindy Cohen, Co-Director, Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University

If there ever have been moments when the challenges confronting our communities and our world call for an unleashing of creativity, agency, courage and imagination, the present moment would surely be on the list. 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 – like those we are facing now? This is the final of four articles, each exploring a dimension of the transformative power of aesthetic engagement. For particular consideration of the invitational, affirming, and evoking qualities of artistic and cultural initiatives, please see the essays “Art Invites” from the February 2022 edition of this e-newsletter,  “Art Affirms” from the May 2022 edition,  and “Art Evokes” from the July 2022 edition.

In this current issue, we are exploring the qualities of artistic and cultural processes that unleash creativity, agency, courage, and imagination,  qualities of character and expression that are necessary to negotiate complex systems. This essay draws on the Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash report (as do our three earlier related articles), and on a set of stories collected in a recent virtual story circle convened to consider, in relation to the current moment,  the significance of art’s power to unleash the life affirming capacities of individuals and communities.

Festival poster
 Koliada by Olha Piliuhina
Upcoming Events

Sing / Koliada: Winter Songs from Ukraine
December 3, 2022, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm PST

The Kitka Institute
Sing and stand with Ukraine! Inna Kovtun and Nadia Tarnawsky share traditional polyphonic Ukrainian songs for the winter holiday season.

"The Long Walk Home: A Mayan Family's Journey In Search of Refuge”
“El largo camino a casa: La travesía de una familia maya buscando refugio”
December 9 and 10, 2022, Brava Theater Center,  San Francisco, California
A multimedia concert by David R. Molina. Dramaturgy and Co-Direction by Roberto G. Varea. Featuring La Familia Rodriguez
"Conceived, composed, co-directed and sound designed by Molina, The Long Walk Home is a multimedia-audio documentary-concert which shares the epic true story of a Guatemalan Mayan family fleeing violence in their homeland, enduring a dangerous journey to the USA, Narco predators at the border, family separation in U.S. detention centers, their miraculous reunification, and their art of clowning. A 5 piece ensemble featuring Bay Area and New York City musicians will perform a live score to this powerful story. Members range from jazz, classical, electronic, latin folklórico, and experimental music backgrounds. For nearly a year Molina conducted and recorded interviews with immigrants, activists, and lawyers. Social justice theater artist Roberto G. Varea and Molina co-created an audio script based on these interviews. These recorded personal voices narrate the piece. Video art and supertitle design make the piece accessible to English and Spanish speakers."

The Countdown To International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) 2023 Is On!
March 29 - April 2, 2023
Rotterdams Wijktheater
“Programming for the upcoming festival is fully underway for full days of talks, lectures, workshops, performances, artist residencies and, of course, some fantastic ICAF after parties.” 
Early Bird tickets are now available to purchase.

Opportunities,  Resources, and Reports
Latest report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Alexandra Xanthaki “Development and cultural rights: the principles”
“In her first report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, addresses the role of culture in sustainable development, including the cultures of development, with a view to assessing how cultural diversity and cultural rights have been mainstreamed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so far; taking stock of the experiences in leveraging cultural resources and cultural rights in the pursuit of a more sustainable development, as well as the weaknesses encountered in doing so; and highlighting areas where increased cultural awareness may contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals during the second half of the implementation timeline of the 2030 Agenda”. 

Connecting the Dots: Artist Protection & Artistic Freedom in Asia 
Artists at Risk Connection 
A new report by Artists at Risk Connection illuminates the challenges to artistic freedom faced by artists in Asia. Based on a workshop conducted in November 2021, the report was produced in partnership with the Mekong Cultural Hub and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.  

Emergency and Resilience Funds for Ukrainian Visual Artists from Ukraine

Artists at Risk Connection 
PEN America's Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) has launched a special call for applications for emergency assistance and resilience assistance to Ukrainian visual artists affected by the ongoing war, through emergency and resilience funds created with the support of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

Biden Reestablishes Arts and Humanities Committee Gutted by Trump
Hyperallergic, Jasmine Liu
The committee’s main responsibilities will be to shape policy goals, stimulate arts philanthropy, and advocate for the expansion of federal backing of the cultural sector.

Colorado Artists and Activists Unite to Advocate for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People
Hyperallergic, Denise Zubizarreta
With exhibitions like Sing Our Rivers Red, Danielle SeeWalker, JayCee Beyale, and others make visible the number of missing people for whom they are demanding proper attention and justice.

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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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