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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
Notes from the Director
June 2017

Greetings from Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. I think most readers of this e-newsletter will agree that now more than ever, the times are calling for our work. Cultural work and the arts can help us grapple with polarization, harmful nationalisms, and assaults on freedom of expression and on truth. We hope this e-newsletter offers useful information and inspiration, and we welcome submissions from readers describing your work, articulating your questions, and linking documentation of your creative expressions.
At Brandeis, we’ve been busy strengthening the undergraduate minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation, now completing its third year. Last fall, students in the introductory class collaborated with The Aleppo Project, based at the embattled Central European University, on a design lab focusing on creativity and on community participation in rebuilding trust and re-imagining a post-war city. You can link to the report below.
A group of Brandeis students has created WorkAround, an innovative platform for Syrian refugees to find income-generating spot jobs. Through this platform, we were able to translate into Arabic the executive summary of the report on "A Vision for Aleppo." We also created an Arabic-language version of the Acting Together handouts on Minimizing Risks of Harm (in Arabic) and Planning Peacebuilding Performance Initiatives (in Arabic).
We also continue to work to strengthen the field. We’ve been working throughout the year to complete a book of songs and stories documenting the cultural work of the incomparable Jane Wilburn Sapp. Readers can sign up for updates about the songbook and a related series of podcasts featuring remarkable activists, cultural workers and educators. Also, in collaboration with Polly Walker and Kitche Magak, we are facilitating a week-long training for Kenyan peacebuilders, scholars and artists at Juniata College in Pennsylvania. Our hope is not only to strengthen collaborations between artists and peacebuilders in Kenya, but to exemplify how regional hubs in a global network could serve to strengthen the field.         
I’ve been busy seeking resources to plan a sustainable, university-based supportive structure for the arts and conflict transformation field. In that process, I created a partial list of gatherings and publications that have addressed the need for a supportive structure for the field. I’m sure there were many additional publications and gatherings. If readers of this newsletter could review the partial list I constructed and send me suggestions for additions or corrections, I would be grateful.
In this newsletter, we focus on two themes: 1) arts-based responses to polarization and destructive nationalisms, and proactive steps that artists and cultural workers are playing to sustain and build respectful relationships across difference; and 2) emerging arts-based peacebuilding initiatives and related resources from several different conflicts in the Middle East. 

All the best in these fascinating, disturbing, unprecedented times,
Cynthia E. Cohen, Ph.D., Director
Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

Role of Art in Times of Polarization, Nationalization, and Isolation
Five Challenges to Artistic Freedom  
By Ole Reitov
Nationalism and religious orthodoxy is spreading in many parts of the world – in the North as well as in the South, East and West. Controlling the minds and expressions of people is based on fear, and the tool of control is spreading more fear, leading to self-censorship, and to stereotyping of ‘the other’ whether these ‘others’ are cultural, religious, sexual or social minorities. Behind messages such as ‘protecting our culture and nation’ and ‘protecting our moral values’, lies the fear of diversity of expressions, opinions and creativity.

Constructing identity, shifting borders: Chant Avedissian’s “Transfer, Transport, Transit” at Sabrina Amrani Gallery, Madrid 
Chant Avedissian’s return to a gallery marks the time for the artist to talk about our present and changes in our society....The increasingly monumental migratory flows, the new political shifts and alliances, and the digitally evolved forms of social relations push our globalised society to re-sketch the notions of identity, borders and relationship. 

Protest Art in the Era of Trump
New York Times
Six boundary-pushing artists talk about protesting current events through their work. The intention is to galvanize and educate, but reactions to the art can be as thorny as the issues the work addresses.

These 11 Artists Will Transform the Art World in 2017 
More than any year in recent memory, 2017 promises to be a spectacularly messy and uncertain year. Brexit, terrorism, and the immigration crisis threaten the existence of the European Union. ...2017 looks to be the year when art and artists encounter politics and cultural commentary head on. With this in mind, here’s a second prediction for the year ahead: cultural polarization will force a rereading of much art of the past and present.

Interview with Michaela Crimmin, founder and co-director of Culture+Conflict
Alessandra Cianetti: Michaela, you are the founder and co-director of Culture+Conflict, ‘a not-for-profit agency focusing on art produced in, or in response to, conflict and post-conflict situations across the world’. What are the conflicts and art practices you have been focusing on lately? As curator, academic and director, how do you think the notion of border has been changing in our contemporary world?

These Emerging Artists Are More Than Ready To Defend The First Amendment 
A show called “Marked Urgent” is raising money for the Committee to Protect Journalists.“Now, more than ever, we need to empower journalists to hold our government accountable and to provide us with the facts we need to remain informed and involved citizens,” Ground Floor Gallery in New York City wrote online. “As passionate arts professionals vested in critical thought and freedom of expression, we feel compelled to respond.”

Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now 
On Being podcast with Lyndsey Stonebridge with Krista Tippett
Lyndsey Stonebridge reflects on the applicability of 20th-century writer and political theorist Hannah Arendt to today’s political environment. She proposes that thinking is not something for elites; it is the human power to keep possibility alive. Arendt’s writings explored the human essence of events that we analyze as historical and political. She famously coined the phrase “the banality of evil,” the inability to hear another voice, or inability to have a dialogue with others or with oneself, to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction. In observation of migrant and refugee issues in her time, Arendt said, “The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.”

What Can An Artist Contribute To A Polarized Political Climate? 
The Huffington Post
Jennifer Rivera, a mezzo soprano, shares her experience as a child in a musical called "Peace Child" that was created in 1981, the adventures of fictional Soviet and American children who meet and become friends. Just as the play originally brought about the first youth cultural exchanges between two countries that faced the prospect of war, Rivera believes artists today must encourage the same exchanges between red states and blue states, who are seemingly at war with words and ideas. 

The Essential Truth of A Raisin in the Sun and Theatre in Our Time 
Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics celebrated World Theatre day by hosting "Dreams Deferred: Crossing Continents and Cultures with A Raisin in the Sun," bringing together theatre makers from South Africa, Sweden, and Washington, DC. "Theatre cannot solve today’s problems of division, terrorism, and extremism, but it can provide a first step by fostering an element all too often missing in domestic and international politics today: empathy." 

Venice Biennale taps art angst amid rising nationalism
With nationalism on the rise, political engagement is central to the artistic dialogue at the Venice Biennale, the world’s oldest contemporary art fair. From the main show, “Viva Arte Viva,” curated by Christine Macel, to 87 national pavilions in the Venice Giardini, Arsenale and throughout the historic city center, artists are contemplating the world around them and giving a voice to underrepresented populations. Exhibits explore topics of migration, Brexit, utopias and dystopias. Read other articles from Artsy and artnet exploring how the Venice Biennale can offer methods for understanding amongst growing nationalism.

Peacebuilding and Arts Initiatives in the Middle East
Ettijahat - Independent Culture at Mansion, Zouqaq Al Blatt Masrah Ensemble in rehearsal for the play "Family Ti-Jean." Photo credit: Maroun Habib
Syrian art in Beirut: Breaking boundaries and restoring hope 
By Myriam Marcuello-Lopez
Lebanon has been impacted severely by the influx of an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, a quarter of its population. Among the Syrians who are trying to rebuild their lives in this country are numerous emerging and professional artists. The Beirut-based Syrian cultural organization Ettijahat launched the project "Create Syria" at the end of 2015. It aims to support artistic initiatives that develop long-term cooperation and resilient relationships between Syrians and host communities. Eyad Houssami, a Syrian artist and director of the theatre Masrah Ensemble, is one of the 11 beneficiaries of this project. I met him in Beirut in the summer of 2016… Read more and read the full paper

Anadolu Kültür: A Civil Society Initiative in Turkey 
Fifteen years ago, in 2002, after a period of intense conflict and the accompanying years of emergency rule of the 1990s in the predominantly Kurdish southeast region of Turkey, a group of artists, intellectuals, academicians and business people from İstanbul came together with an idea to establish an arts and culture center in the heart of the region, in Diyarbakır. 

"A Vision of Aleppo": Brandeis University Design Lab
By Hauke Ziessler and Maggie Ziegel, with Cynthia Cohen and Kristin Parker. In collaboration with The Aleppo Project, Brandeis students participated in a Design Lab generating creative approaches to rebuilding trust and envisioning a future for the people of Aleppo. The Lab was conducted as part of the Fall 2016 Brandeis class Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation Program (CAST). Through WorkAround, an online platform that links Syrian refugees with opportunities to earn income, the executive summary of this report has been translated into Arabic and is available here.

Startup WorkAround brings jobs and dignity to Refugees
We are living in a world in which 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced due to war, conflict and violence. As of 2016, 12 million of these people were Syrians. Wafaa Arbash, a Syrian herself, felt compelled to do something about the growing crisis. Many of her friends were stranded in limbo, not knowing if or when they might be able to return, or where they would be sent to next. They have difficulty finding jobs in host countries and are at risk of joining the conflict or being drawn into human and drug trafficking and other forms of violence. Ensuring peace, not just in areas of conflict, but also in areas of resettlement, requires new and creative approaches. WorkAround, Wafaa’s company, is providing one of these creative solutions. A collaboration between four women from four different parts of the world,
WorkAround provides online jobs for refugees. Read more about WorkAround

Stories of Missing: New dramaturgy from Cyprus across languages/divides 
May 2017
By Dr. Ellada Evangelou

The opening of the checkpoints in Cyprus in 2003 marked the end of the 29-year segregation of the Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking communities. The communities were split violently by war in 1974, as the culmination of more than 15 years of inter-communal violence… In the early 1980s, two new theatres were established: the Nicosia Municipal theatre (Turkish-language in north Nicosia) and Neon Theatro – later named Satirikon Theatre
(Greek-speaking, in south Nicosia). Both establishments were focused on reconciliation, and thus the idea of working together slowly started to take shape. Read the full article.

Book: “But Abu-Ibrahim We’re Family!” 
By Dr. Lee Perlman
Book Launch: Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 8-10, 2017

Acting Together Contributor and Research Fellow, Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research, Tel Aviv University, Dr. Lee Perlman, will launch his new book on artist-based peacebuilding performance in Israel, “But Abu-Ibrahim We’re Family!” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2017. “But Abu Ibrahim, We’re Family!” is a series of case studies, describing collaborations between Jewish and Palestinian professional theater artists in Israel and the theater they create to reflect their realities. It depicts the ways in which the artists navigate shifting power dynamics and relations between them, while working together to overcome external social and political forces, which run counter to their work. For more information about the book and speaking engagements, please contact Read more

Film: “Disturbing the Peace”
Combatants for Peace is a bi-national movement of Palestinians and Israelis who actively participated in the cycle of violence in the region, but have since chosen the path of nonviolence in promoting peace and coexistence. Combatants for Peace incorporates methodologies from Theatre of the Oppressed in their work; their approach is captured in a powerful new film "Disturbing the Peace," about people born into conflict, sworn to be enemies, who challenged their fate. The film follows everyday people who took extraordinary actions by standing for what they believe in. Read more

Resources & Opportunities

Becoming the Vessel: Theater of Witness Summer Training
July 7 - 9, Friday night: 6-9pm; Saturday, Sunday 9-6pm
Immerse yourself in the process of creating Testimonial Theater in a safe and creative community.

Alliance for Peacebuilding 2017 Annual Conference
October 11 - 13, 2017
Washington, DC

Registration is officially open for the Alliance for Peacebuilding’s 2017 Annual Conference. This year’s conference, entitled “Peace Now More Than Ever,” will serve as a vital platform for strategy, information, and networking during a turbulent time for peace and security worldwide.

Garland of Flowers
By Jonathan Fox 
“Garland of Flowers” is Jonathan Fox’s recent account of working with a Playback project in Nepal, a country where he spent two formative years as a young man (referred to in his memoir Beyond Theatre). Returning to Nepal in 2016 brought new understanding of how his long-ago experience there contributed in important ways to the formation of Playback Theatre.

Playback Theatre and Social Change: Functions, Principles and Practices  
By Ben Rivers and Jiwon Chung
Based on the authors’ extensive experience in the US, India, and the Middle East, this concise article proposes a set of well-reasoned principles and guidelines that support the effective, ethical use of Playback Theatre for social change. 

Art Radar 
Art Radar conducts original research and interviews leading artists, curators, gallerists and other art professionals to bring our readers an unbiased and direct view into the world of Asian contemporary art.

The International Storytelling Center & National Storytelling Festival
The cornerstone of the International Storytelling Center is a belief in a single, immutable principle of life: storytelling. People crave, remember, and honor stories. Take a Virtual Tour or visit the Google Art Project to learn more.

Lullaby Project 
VocalEssence is thrilled to be the first choir nationally to offer the Lullaby Project, a national program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. The Lullaby Project creates musical experiences for women facing pregnancy while enduring other hardships, such as teenage pregnancy, homelessness, or incarceration.
Becoming the Vessel: Theater of Witness Summer Training
July 7 - 9, Friday night: 6-9pm
Saturday, Sunday 9-6pm

The International Storytelling Center & National Storytelling Festival
October 6-8, 2017 in historic Jonesborough, Tennessee

Alliance for Peacebuilding 2017 Annual Conference
October 11 - 13, 2017
Washington, DC

New from the Acting Together Project - Toolkit handouts now available in Arabic:
"Minimizing Risks of Harm" (in Arabic) and "Planning Peacebuilding Performance Initiatives" (in Arabic)

"A Vision of Aleppo": Brandeis University Design Lab
By Hauke Ziessler and Maggie Ziegel, with Cynthia Cohen and Kristin Parker.
In collaboration with The Aleppo Project, Brandeis students participated in a Design Lab generating creative approaches to rebuilding trust and envisioning a future with the people of Aleppo. The Lab was conducted as part of the Fall 2016 Brandeis class Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation Program (CAST). Through WorkAround, an online platform that links Syrian refugees with opportunities to earn income, the executive summary of this report has been translated into Arabic and is available here
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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