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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
May 2022

To Readers of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now,
Gender impacts the ways in which war is experienced. Sexual violence, committed against women in particular, is sometimes a tool in soldiers’ arsenals, deployed strategically to prove domination over the enemy, to torture, or impregnate. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820, passed in 2008, maintains that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, and can be a constituent element of genocide. Rape as an instrument of war is now being documented in Ukraine. In addition, transgender individuals, already facing discrimination there, are reporting impossibilities of escape: border guards don’t recognize their official identity papers as legitimate when the gender identity (assigned at birth) noted in the document differs from the current one.
In this issue of our newsletter, we share links to a number of articles that grapple with various aspects of the gendered experience of war in Ukraine. At the end of that list, you’ll find a link to a recording of a panel discussion, held in late April, in which policymakers and others advocate for the inclusion of those who identify as women in all conflict transformation processes, and for gender concerns to be at the core of these efforts. Nadia Murad, Iraqi Yazidi human rights advocate, reminds us in a recent interview that “whether it’s in Yemen or Ukraine or any other place…, we should make sure that we have [violence against women] in mind when planning to deal with these conflicts.”
We begin, though, with a call to recognize and honor how the arts, even during or in the aftermath of war, can, with care, affirm human dignity as well as the interdependence of humanity, and the interdependence of humankind with the natural world. Each of our quarterly issues of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now is focusing, this year, on one of the four overarching themes of the report – Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash: How artistic and cultural processes transform complex challenges – produced by IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture, and Conflict Transformation). This time we bring you an essay about the affirmational quality of engagement with the arts, and links to relevant materials.
Artists around the globe continue to respond to the horrific events in Ukraine with outrage, sorrow, and sensitivity. Below, you’ll find links to articles about (and recordings of) some of their work, much of it attesting to our interdependence, and honoring Ukrainians’ dignity.
We are also featuring a piece about a new documentary film about Tibetan dance, made by a survivor of armed conflict and cultural genocide. Losang Samten escaped from Tibet just after the violent quashing of Tibetans’ 1959 rebellion against Chinese occupation of their homeland. An accomplished ritual dancer, visual artist, and meditation teacher, Losang Samten recently produced a movie about a particular sequence of dances performed solely at the monastery of the Dalai Lama, Tibetans’ spiritual leader, using stunning archival footage. These dances, so deeply meaningful to Tibetans, are in danger of being lost.
The “events” and “opportunities” sections of the newsletter highlight performances, exhibitions, and calls for applications.
With kind regards,
Armine Avetisyan and Toni Shapiro-Phim

Dancers interpret the testimony of survivors of forced marriage (institutionalized rape), a practice imposed during the years of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. By both allowing artists to retell their deeply harrowing and sometimes triumphant histories, and contributing input as the performance piece - Phka Sla - was being developed, survivors report beginning to reclaim their dignity after decades of suffering fear, shame and feelings of worthlessness. (Sophiline Arts Ensemble; Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, choreographer; Noboyuki Arai, photographer; 2018)
Art Affirms!
By Cindy Cohen, Director, 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 second in a series of four, each exploring one dimension of the transformative power of aesthetic engagement. The series is based on the 2021 IMPACT (Imagining Together Platform for Arts, Culture, and Conflict Transformation) report: Invite | Affirm | Evoke | Unleash: How artistic and cultural processes transform complex challenges. For an overview of the project, and particular consideration of the invitational quality of artistic and cultural initiatives, please see the essay “Art Invites” from the February 2022 edition of this e-newsletter.
In the current issue, we are exploring the affirmational quality of artistic and cultural processes.
Photo courtesy of Rubryka
War and Gender in Ukraine

A protest against the rape of Ukrainian women was organized near the Russian embassy in Estonia

About 20 women gathered in the middle of a street in Tallinn to draw attention to the Russian military's violence against Ukrainian women and children. The women stood with their hands behind their backs, wearing underwear painted with red paint and bags on their heads.”

Ukraine: Conflict compounds the vulnerabilities of women and girls as humanitarian needs spiral
United Nations Population Fund

According to a 2019 UNPF report, some 67 per cent of women in Ukraine shared that they had experienced some form of violence since age 15, and one in three reported experiencing physical or sexual violence. Crisis and displacement put them at increased risk of sexual and physical violence and abuse.


The strength of Ukrainian women is on display

The Washington Post, Monica Hesse

“The images of women in Ukraine show a grim sense of duty.”

CNN, Nick Paton Walsh, Natalie Gallon, Maryna Marukhnych, and Brica Laine 
“Stories are helping to paint a pattern of a Russian military, pockmarked by criminal behavior and, in this case, the alleged assault of a minor at her most vulnerable.”

The Washington Post, Ruth Pollard
"What’s happening in Ukraine is one of the worst large-scale campaigns of sexual violence in war since Islamic State’s attacks on the Yezidi minority in Iraq in 2014. Before that, of course, there was a long, terrible history of systemic rape in conflict, from Nigeria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Bosnia, Myanmar and Bangladesh."

Men and boys among alleged rape victims of Russian soldiers in Ukraine

The Guardian, Emma Graham-Harrison
"UN chief on sexual violence warns dozens of cases under investigation are ‘tip of the iceberg’"

Vera Lytovchenko has been giving impromptu concerts in the basement of her building in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where bombs have forced people to shelter.Credit...Credit: Vera Lytochenko, via Associated Press. Source: The New York Times.
Artists and Ukraine

Ukrainians Fill Streets with Music, Echoing Past War Zones

The New York Times, Javier C. Hernández
“‘My music can show that we are still human,’ [violinist Vera Lytovchenko] said in an interview. ‘We need not just food or water. We need our culture…’” 

The New York Times, Javier C. Hernández
“The newly formed Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra will perform in Europe and the United States [in July and August], using music to oppose the Russian invasion.”

"CITD [Center for International Theatre Development] is working with our long-time partner John Freedman and Ukrainian playwright and leader of the new THEATRE OF PLAYWRIGHTS in Kyiv, Maksym Kurochkin, in a commissioning project. Through Max and his theatre, CITD gave 23 Ukrainian playwrights $1000 each to create new works that offer a first draft of history through the lens of the playwright." 

5 Ukrainian Art Accounts to Follow on Instagram Now

The New York Times, Will Heinrich 
Artists continue to work, documenting the impact of events as they unfold, to keep the world watching.

Ukraine Asks to Keep Measures to Protect Cultural Heritage Under Wraps
Hyperallergic, Jasmine Liu 
Publishing data about efforts to protect threatened cultural properties might expose them as targets for Russian troops and looters, the country’s deputy Minister of Culture warned.

Read more stories.

Tibetan Prayer Flags. By Yasunori Koide. Source: Wikimedia
New Documentary Film about Tibetan Dance 

By Tenzin Dasel, Brandeis University ’22  and Toni Shapiro-Phim, Assistant Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

Tibetan ritual dancer Losang Samten – who is also an award-winning visual artist and the spiritual director of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia (USA) – recently worked with filmmaker Aidan Un to craft a documentary film about Tibetan ritual dances and the context of their performance.  In particular, the focus was on a series of ritual dances historically performed at Namgyal Monastery, the monastery of the Dalai Lama. Using archival footage and contemporary interviews, they pieced together stories of dances that, among other things, contribute to the elimination of attachment, pride, and ignorance by guiding the metamorphosis of these negative attributes into equanimity and wisdom. Every element of the dances – the elaborate costumes, gestural language, masks and headdresses, musical accompaniment – is infused with layers of symbolism.
The need for this kind of documentation is acute, according to Losang Samten. He fears that knowledge about the dances is being lost as generations in the diaspora are removed from their homeland, and as suppression of Tibetan cultural practices continues in Tibet. “The older generation is already passing on, and I had the chance to study the ritual dances from great masters.  So, I thought oh, now if I die due to Covid-19 or whatever, you know, this will truly be lost. Which is why I decided to do this documentary.” In addition, “each monastery has a totally different way of performing the ritual dance… [The monks of] Namgyal Monastery have a very unique ritual dance. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s monastery’s ritual dance has been known to be in existence since the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama… There are a lot of ritual dances that look the same – costumes look the same – but how to dance, and how to dance along with the music and chanting, are very different.” 
Sámi Pavilion artist Máret Ánne Sara on the tundra close to Šuoššjávri, Kárášjohka (photo by Michael Miller / OCA)
Upcoming Events 

Hyperallergic, Anna Souter
At this year’s Venice Biennale (23 April - 27 November), the Nordic Pavilion will be transformed for the first time into the Sámi Pavilion. The project undermines the nationalistic structure behind the Biennale, instead recognizing the sovereignty and cultural cohesion of Sápmi, the Sámi cultural region, which covers much of the northernmost areas of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as part of Russia. The three contributing artists — Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna — draw attention to the ongoing colonial oppression and discrimination experienced by Indigenous Sámi under local and national governments across the Nordic region.
5 May
Join the Arts Club of Washington (online) for a virtual reading of new one-act plays from the war. This is part of the Worldwide Readings Project to benefit the Ukrainian people. 
12 May
Tsvelf is a free 12-hr Yiddish Music and Spoken Word Concert held via Zoom featuring artists from around the world. The concert will feature klezmer, Yiddish song, poetry, and more, in an effort to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. 

The Guardian, David Smith
A landmark exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. until 17 July explores the slave trade and the African diaspora’s cultural legacy. Presented through thematic areas, including Maps and Margins; Enslavements and Emancipations; and Rites and Rhythms, Afro-Atlantic Histories contains more than 130 works from Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, dating from the 17th century to the 21st. 

Phooto courtesy of Prince Claus Fund. © Morteza Soorani
Opportunities and Resources
Deadline: 31 May
Cultural & Artistic Responses to Environmental Change is a year-long interdisciplinary programme offered by the Prince Claus Fund and the Goethe Institut that is aimed at accelerating engaged community-based cultural practices at the intersection of arts and the environment, initiating an international network of creatives, and fostering leadership. 
Deadline: 15 May
The South-South Arts Fellowships 2022 aim to nurture wider and deeper connections among cultural workers within the Global South. The Fellowships will support initiatives that enable long-term professional networks, alliances and collaborations among cultural workers living and working in developing economies in Africa (including North Africa), Asia (including West Asia and Central Asia) and the Pacific. 

Culture of Solidarity Fund – Ukraine special edition

The Ukraine edition of the Culture of Solidarity Fund, launched by the European Cultural Foundation, is now open for considering cultural emergency requests and joint European actions to stand with Ukraine.

Deadline: 15 May

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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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