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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 2021

Dear Friends of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and the global IMPACT initiative,

The solstice falls on December 21st this year. In much of the southern hemisphere, this means that summer is upon us. In the northern part of the globe, it is winter that is setting in. The solstice denotes a shift in a celestial cycle. By celebrating this cosmic event, as many do with festivals and feasts and other rituals, communities honor humankind’s interdependence with the natural and spirit worlds.

How might we amplify the centrality of such interdependence, and imagine and illuminate ways to deepen and broaden the respectful experience and acknowledgment of it? This question was one of those on the minds of more than 200 people who participated in an online Learning Exchange in November, exploring (in written conversations in both Spanish and English) what it will take to shift our ways of being in the world away from a “global culture that is inherently unsustainable” to an approach that will sustain human and animal communities, and the planet. In this issue, Dr. Ameer Shaheed writes about this Virtual Learning Exchange and the participants’ understandings of the “paradigm shift away from the dominant, underlying ‘culture of unsustainability’ to a ‘culture of sustainability,’” including the roles of arts and other aspects of culture in the latter. The Learning Exchange was convened by IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation) and its partners. Ameer’s essay opens the “IMPACT” section of our newsletter.

This section also includes a “shout from the rooftops” heralding the release of a report entitled “Invite|Affirm|Evoke|Unleash”,  authored by Dr. Cynthia Cohen, Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Cindy, in collaboration with researchers and thinking partners from ten countries, makes a case that “constructively engaging with the urgent, complex challenges facing [the world] requires insights from many different sources -- including artistic and cultural practices, wisdom traditions, multiple scholarly disciplines, and practitioners of many kinds, including artists, peacebuilders and other changemakers.” The report is a crucial resource for ongoing discussions focused on culture and sustainability, mentioned above.

My IMPACT colleague Germaine Ingram and I invited the founder and director of Mali’s famed Festival au Desert, ag Mohamed Aly “Manny” Ansar, to curate a symposium presentation, and ended up being awed by the stellar line-up of speakers and performers who offered testament to the possibilities of music festivals as platforms of interchange and learning across major divides. The presentation, Germaine explains in her overview of the event, was part of a hybrid symposium entitled, “Telling the Uncommon Stories of Festivals: The Role of Festivals and Creativity in Conflict Transformation,” held both in person in Nicosia, Cyprus, and online.

Another IMPACT Leadership Circle member, Emilie Diouf, offers us insight into some actions that followed a 2020 IMPACT Learning Exchange focused on creative ways that individuals and communities are confronting gender-based violence across the African continent.

At the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, we are thrilled to be hosting Egyptian multidisciplinary artist Yosra El-Gazzar as an artist-in-residence – virtually, this year, and, we hope, in person in 2022. Yosra writes about her search, through art, for new forms of resistance.

In other Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts (PBA) news, PBA along with its sister initiative, the Program in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation, and the Women’s Studies Research Center, all at Brandeis University, welcomed the work of Indigenous Canadian artist Jaime Black (of Anishinaabe and Finnish descent) to campus in November, calling attention to the horrific violence suffered by Indigenous women and girls in North America. Making a profound aesthetic statement, Jaime Black reminds us not only of Indigenous women’s absence due to murder and kidnapping/trafficking, but of their potent spiritual and physical presence. In photographs, poetry and video, Jaime captures her acts of ceremony which reinforce her connection to the rocks, earth, and water, and to the knowledge, stories, and strength they hold and share. What we witness is an embodiment of the interdependence between humans, the land, and the spirits. She invites us to join her in forming just such a relationship, not only at the solstice, but all year round.

With the solstice on the horizon, we wanted to pause for a moment to reflect on other kinds of shifts, too, namely the situations in Afghanistan (the focus of an earlier special issue of this newsletter), and in Haiti. This quarter’s newsletter opens with notes about artists in and from those two countries, recognizing multiple upheavals and our responsibility to bear witness and take supportive action.

Thank you for joining the artists and communities featured here, appreciating that we need each other – and a healthy thriving planet -- in our quest for everyone to move forward with safety, dignity and beauty.

Assistant Director, Peacebuilding and the Arts
IMPACT Leadership Circle member

An anti-corruption mural painted by ArtLords in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which depicts a schoolgirl holding pens, was vandalized by Taliban fighters.Credit...Kiana Hayeri . Source: The New York Times.
Updates about Arts and Artists in and from Afghanistan 
In August 2021, we produced a special issue of this newsletter, focused on the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, and the impact of the U.S. withdrawal and takeover by the Taliban on cultural communities and individual artists there. We now share with you links to more recent news:

Afghan Art Flourished for 20 Years. Can it Survive the New Taliban Regime?

Afghan Orchestra Musicians, Music Students and Teachers Have Escaped the Taliban

‘We planted a seed’: the Afghan artists who painted for freedom

"Stories from the Woods" by Mimi Desir, painted on a traditional Haitian platter, woven from palm tree leaves. Courtesy of Charlot Lucien. Source:
Spotlight on Haiti
In the latter half of 2021, Haitians have experienced the assasination of their president and a calamitous earthquake. More than half a million people needed emergency assistance in the wake of the August 14th natural disaster as, among those who survived, thousands were injured, and homes destroyed. But medical facilities had been razed, too, and roads had become impassable. The sense of emergency continues as gang violence and fuel shortages worsen. News has spread across the globe of an exodus of Haitians, not only from their homeland, but also from countries to which they had fled years ago. They are undertaking dangerous journeys in hopes of finding asylum in the United States, from where at least 7,000 have been immediately deported. Below we share a story of Haitian artists in diaspora auctioning their artwork to help pay for humanitarian aid in the areas of Haiti hardest hit by the earthquake. We also highlight a number of other Haitian artists of various media, both inside and outside Haiti, as a reminder of their ongoing creativity. 

The following list was compiled by Sam Larue'23. 
Haitian Artists Auction Paintings and Host a Storytelling Event for Post-Earthquake Relief
In September, the Haitian Artist Assembly of Massachusetts (USA) and the 2021 Mass Haitian Relief Task Force collaborated on an art auction and virtual storytelling gathering, proceeds of which went to inaccessible towns in the rural areas of Haiti where aid continues to be needed. Local (U.S.-based) Haitian artists donated their work. Organizer Charlot Lucien offered hopes “that we can bring the youth into this particular form of cultural event, storytelling, to connect with Haiti and to learn about Haiti through a different lens," noting that “some of the storytellers were able to draw stories out of the images they saw, so there will be some sense of traveling mentally through the paintings. It will bring back powerful stories and powerful solidarity," 

An openly gay Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer, Kaytranada has built up a critically acclaimed discography of hip-hop-tinged dance music which wrestles with the intersectionality of queerness and Blackness. He has won two Grammy Awards and has collaborated and toured with artists such as Pharrell Williams, Kali Uchis, and Madonna.

Roudy Azor
Indigo Arts Gallery 
Roudy Azor is a Port-au-Prince-based artist who specializes in the beadwork style of drapo Vodou, which was pioneered by his mentor Myrlande Constant and focuses on creating new interpretations of Vodou deities.  

Fabiola Jean-Louis
A New York-based Haitian diaspora artist, Jean-Louis’ photography deals with themes of history, high fantasy, and Afro-Futurism, inspecting the relationship between Blackness and European ideals of colonialism and beauty.  

REDress Project installation at Brandeis University by Jaime Black. Photo Courtesy of Toni Shapiro-Phim.
The REDress project at Brandeis and more
By Toni Shapiro-Phim, Assistant Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts and Associate Professor of Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation, Brandeis University, USA.

Empty red dresses -- striking against the green and brown of trees, and the gray of stone -- beckon us as they twist in the wind. These dresses have been on display around the Brandeis University campus for the month of November, placed in discrete locations by students in the Introduction to Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation course, under the guidance of Indigenous Canadian artist Jaime Black (of Anishinaabe and Finnish descent). Her REDress Project draws attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women and girls across North America. Through the absence of bodies, the dresses call forth the women’s presence. The minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation and the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts have presented this public art event in conjunction with the exhibition of Jaime Black’s work, between us, on display in the Kniznick Gallery at Brandeis. 

Water. Stone. Twigs. Bodies. The color red. These elements appear throughout Jaime Black’s between us, honoring the interdependence between humankind and the natural and spiritual worlds. The artist focuses special attention on Indigenous women’s potency in all these realms. The dresses that are outside, as well as those in the gallery, along with Black's other work in the exhibition, ask us to consider ways to both continue to educate ourselves about this crisis and to confront injustice, while celebrating beauty, and reverencing women as the weavers of, as Black says, “the threads that bind and sustain us.” 

While the REDress Project at Brandeis will be up only through November, Black’s exhibition of photography, poetry and video will be in the Kniznick Gallery through February 25, 2022.

Still from So Close Yet So Far video series. Source:
In Constant Search for New Forms of Resistance
by Yosra El-Gazzar, CEC Artslink Fellow at the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

The search started in the winter of 2016, and it’s still ongoing. I was a young fresh graduate from an art school in Cairo, and I was filled with excitement for the fact that my graduation project was selected to be showcased in a high-end art exhibition. It was my first participation in an art show, and my first encounter with the reality of the contemporary artworld. I guess I was lucky to find early on how art can be a medium of communication about the subjects that matter, at least to me and my community. My project was about the borders of the Middle East, and the restrictions of movement in the region. I was fascinated with the information I found during my research. The result of months of research and tons of information was met with a limited gallery space, where people spend five minutes absorbing what I spent a long time carefully weaving together.

Read the full article.

"Hands" by Georg Engeli, 2021
Culture and Sustainability Learning Exchange: Overview

by Ameer Shaheed, Learning Exchange Team member 


IMPACT, a global network strengthening the field of Arts, Culture, and Conflict Transformation (ACCT), has been organizing Learning Exchanges (LEs) since 2018. These consist of online conversations taking place across the worldwide ACCT ecosystem, connecting and fostering exchanges. This year’s discussion took place on the 2nd and 4th of November 2021. The theme was “Culture and Sustainability,” and invited participants to explore culture not as a mere addition to or a separate dimension of sustainability, but as “a necessary foundation for meeting the overall aims of sustainability”(Soini and Dessein 2016)[1]. The premise was that we are living in a time beset by systemic challenges affecting humanity and the planet; these challenges are linked to a dominant global culture that is inherently unsustainable. The changes we need require major transitions that comprise a paradigm shift away from the dominant, underlying ‘culture of unsustainability’ to a ‘culture of sustainability.’

Alongside the core IMPACT team, a number of co-conveners helped organize and facilitate the conversation. These included Hans Dieleman, Vikram Iyengar, Mike Van Graan, the Community Arts Network, +Peace, and the European Youth Parliament for Water.

The event took place on Platform4Dialogue. To increase inclusiveness and coverage, two separate conversations were held around the same topics, one in Spanish and the other in English. Overall, 213 participants joined the Spanish language discussion, sharing 466 comments. The English language platform saw 219 participants in total, generating 557 comments. Participants registered from over 70 countries and had a wide range of affiliations, from grassroots organizations working in the ACCT field, individual artists and consultants, to academics working in the sustainability and/or ACCT fields, members of institutions involved in sustainability and international development, and organizations involved in funding or promoting cultural initiatives. 
"Petals of Hope". An image made from paper hand-crafted from flowers left at a memorial for victims of a 1998 bombing in Omagh, Northern Ireland (1999). Photo Credit: Carole Kane, facilitating artist.
Unleash" report is out!
Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash: How artistic and cultural processes transform complex challenges report, developed by IMPACT and commissioned by the Community Arts Network, a joint venture of the Porticus and Hilti Foundations, undertaken with support from the Program in Peacebuiling and the Arts and ReCAST, Inc. The project explores the intertwined nature of contemporary challenges, and how the field of arts, culture and conflict transformation contributes to creating a world where dignity, vibrancy, creativity and multiple forms of justice inscribe relationships with nature and each other. 

Visit the web page of the research project and the report.

Read the full report.

View Dr. Cynthia Cohen's presentation to the UN Secretary General and Senior Management based on this report.

Still from the zoom presentation.
Festivals and Peacebuilding: A Conversation about Festival au Desert of Mali
By Germaine Ingram, IMPACT Leadership Circle Member

What makes a festival?  How do the social dynamics of a festival differ from those of other gatherings, such as concerts, happenings, parades, conferences, round/long tables….?  How can the particular characteristics of festivals be used to support peace building and conflict transformation?  These were questions that animated Brandeis University Professor of Creativity, Arts and Conflict Transformation Toni Shapiro-Phim and me when we were approached by the Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival, based in Nicosia, Cyprus, and The Festival Academy, based in Brussels, Belgium, to design a panel session for their October 11-12, 2021 hybrid symposium titled “Telling the Uncommon Stories of Festivals: The Role of Festivals and Creativity in Conflict Transformation.”  It was a chance for IMPACT to extend its collaboration with the Buffer Fringe Festival since working with festival organizers in 2020 to start the “Thinking Partners” initiative, connecting the Festival’s performing artists with advisers from the arts, culture and conflict transformation field. It became a chance for me to probe the truly uncommon story of a festival that I hadn’t experienced personally, but that has long fascinated me.

Sit-in protests against violence against women and girls in Dakar on May 25, 2019, by Fatou Warkha Samb. Photo Courtesy of Dafadoy Collective.
In Senegal When Women's Bodies are Slayed, a Feminist Movement Emerges from Social Media Platforms
by Emilie Diouf, IMPACT Leadership Circle Member

Enraged by the upsurge of violence against women, Senegalese women have lifted the veil of silence about atrocious forms of abuse. Their voices raise into a clamor to cry out, dafadoy,[1] enough is enough. They join the faint echo of their foremothers across the continent who, several years ago, cried:

they are cutting up to pieces,

My body and my sun,

They are cutting them up into pieces…

They are Cutting everything up into pieces[2]

Ending violence against women in Senegal requires a multiplicity of voices capable of unveiling the different ways systemic social, cultural, economic, and political structures make women vulnerable. It is in this context that the Dafadoy Collective for Ending Violence Against Women and Children saw light on May 21st, 2019. A hashtag on social media platforms became a coalition of several civil society organizations fighting for gender justice.
[1] Wolof term meaning enough is enough.
[2] Malika O’Lahsen (Algeria). “It Took One Hundred Years.” translated from the French by Eric Sellin.  In Stella and Frank, Chipasula. The Heinemann Book of African Women's Poetry. Oxford, UK: Heinemann. 1995, p8.  

Read the full article.

Event Poster. Photo courtesy of IHRAF.
Upcoming Events
4th International Human Rights Art Festival
December 6-12, 2021
“Over 100 artists and activists from all over the globe are set to take part in the 4th INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ART FESTIVAL in New York City from December 6 - 12 at Wild Project (195 E. 3rd Street in Manhattan). Set to coincide with International Human Rights Day which falls on December 10 every year, the Festival brings together artists with social and political leaders and the general public to imagine and implement a better, more caring world.”
Buy tickets.

The International Community Arts Festival 2023 in Rotterdam
ICAF 2023 is interested in arts projects and organisations that demonstrate an awareness of the power of community arts to affect, enrich and expose us to forms of positive change, and that use sound as an entry point into this creative journey.  
Beyond the open call (which closed on November 28), ICAF is looking for content for the upcoming ICAF online platform, as well as to broaden its network of future friends and collaborators. Reach out to the festival at with any projects and proposals.

Conference poster. Photo courtesy of Tampere, Finland.
Announcements and Resources
Call For Papers: EUPRA Conference, June 1-4, 2022 
Empowering Peace: The Role of Civil Society In Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation

Abstracts deadline January 31, 2022
Tampere University, Finland
EUPRA welcomes all kinds of papers and presentations concerning peace in Europe and its neighbourhood. The organizers promote and encourage intersectionality, inclusion, diversity and equality as transversal topics and as practices for the next EUPRA conference. Sub-themes include arts and peace, nonviolence, activism and peace movements, sustainability, environment and peace and many more.
Send abstracts by January 31, 2022 to EUPRAPEACE@GMAIL.COM

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 is awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah, born in Zanzibar, "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents." According to critic Maya Jaggi, “Gurnah a powerful and nuanced writer whose elliptical lyricism counters the silences and lies of imperial history imposed when he was a child in east Africa. His subtle oeuvre is as robust about the brutal flaws of the mercantile culture he left as the atrocities of British and German colonialism, not least during the first world war, and the ‘random acts of terror’ he experienced as a black person in Britain…”

PAR (Protección de Artistas en Riesgo) - América Latina y el Caribe
Protection Network for Artists-at-Risk in Latin America and the Caribbean

PAR is a protection network for artists-at-risk in Latin America and the Caribbean, established with the aims to provide quick responses to artists and cultural professionals who, due to their work, face attacks or situations of risk in Latin America and the Caribbean; support regional relocation processes in Latin America and the Caribbean; make visible the challenges of defending freedom of artistic expression and the dangers and threats facing artists in the region; and support joint actions at the national, regional and international levels that aim at having an impact both on international Human Rights bodies and national or regional bodies, where the rights of artists can be promoted and defended.
November is Native American Heritage Month: Change-Making Projects in the Arts and Humanities
The Mellon Foundation profiles the dynamic work of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which represents the state’s 11 major Native groups; highlights the growing momentum toward cultural repatriation in the digital space; and looks back at the robust programs dedicated to advancing the next generation of Native American cultural leaders at the Peabody Essex and Heard Museums. 

Re-creating the Syria of His Memories, Through Miniatures 
The New Yorker Documentary 
In “A Broken House,” directed by Jimmy Goldblum, Mohamad Hafez comes to the U.S. on a single-entry visa to study architecture, and, when he realizes that he can’t return to his home country, he decides to conjure it in his art.

Mother, Singer, Survivor of Liberia’s Civil War and Refugee as Community Builder: Recording of a presentation of the INSPIRE Seminar Series 
During the inaugural program of the INSPIRE (Inspirational Creative Practice: The Work of Artists after War and Violent Conflict) Seminar Series, Liberian singer, songwriter and anti-violence community activist Fatu Gayflor and Toni Shapiro-Phim of Brandeis University’s Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts discussed their collaboration on a documentary film, Because of the War. Intrinsic to the conversation is the anti-violence work of Gayflor and her Liberian artist-colleagues during and following Liberia’s years of civil strife -- a model that integrates music and community-building in Liberia, at refugee settlements in other West African countries, and in the United States, Fatu Gayflor’s current home. 

report is out!

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Call For Papers: EUPRA Conference, June 1-4, 2022 
Empowering Peace: The Role of Civil Society In Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation
Abstracts deadline January 31, 2022
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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