Culture » Overview

Exploring the transformative power of the arts – building bridges across cultures – supporting young cultural innovators

The Salzburg Global Seminar’s Culture and the Arts Program focuses on the transformative power of the arts, facilitates cultural exchange at multiple levels, and provides capacity-building opportunities through the annual Young Cultural Innovators Forum. Through multi-year projects and strategic convenings, the Culture and Arts Program seeks to secure a more prominent role for the arts on policy agendas and to support the continuously evolving needs of the creative sector – as a major driver of sustainable economic development and social improvement – through the multi-year Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

Sessions in 2018:

The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future - February 20 to 25, 2018

Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators V - October 16 to 21, 2018

For past sessions, click here

Paula McFetridge: "The same number of people have died through suicide that died over the 40 years”
Paula McFetridge: "The same number of people have died through suicide that died over the 40 years”
Alex Jackson 
Paula McFetridge has been messaging her family back home just before we sit down to chat, stealing some quick down time in between sessions. Her husband has been telling friends that she is in Austria to participate in the “Conflict Resolution Olympics.” She is actually at Salzburg Global Seminar to attend the session "Conflict Transformation through the Arts: Peace-Building and the Arts", but the artistic director of Kabosh Theatre Group is amused at the thought of the juxtaposition between the serious notion of conflict and the fun and camaraderie of the Olympic Games. “I love theatre. But I also love sport. I love the idea of the live communal event. I think we spend so much time isolated, and so much time in a parochial setting or we engage more with the digital world and the more solitary our existence becomes, and I am a great believer in the communal,” she says. Such enthusiasm for group activities has been instilled in McFetridge from a young age, “I was born in 1966 in Belfast. My parents were really determined we wouldn’t become embroiled, or bitter, or single minded,” she explains. This foundation has certainly been reflected in her diverse and surprising career moves. McFetridge was a youth theatre actress, started a circus troupe after learning how to stilt walk, acted as production manager for the Belfast Festival, held the prestigious role of managing director of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, and latterly took up residence with Kabosh, a site specific theatre company. “One of the advantages of creating theatre in non-theatre spaces is that people don’t feel intimidated by it in the same way. People are curious about space and so they then have access to arts, people are curious about 'the other' so it is a great way of observing how they go about their daily existence and also I think it is a great backdrop to the work and I found it a great inspiration for the work I do.” Working within the context of a conflict that date back to her youth, McFetridge uses theatre in a way to readdress and redress stories, histories and ownership. As Northern Ireland comes to terms with a particularly violent century of unrest, McFetridge uses her shows to creatively and innovatively dispel ignorance and divisions, presenting histories back to communities in a way that challenges preconceptions. “I am amazed how each space you go and work in, someone thinks they own that space, they claim ownership of it. I always say that I do something through the lens of my eyes and ears, but also a lot of work we do is single identity, so I don’t go in to alter the space. I somehow try to help people have different perceptions of that space and think of different possibilities. I think of sectarianism, and bigotry and racism and those awful things that are happening in the world and seem to be getting worse are caused by ignorance and ignorance breeds fear.” Challenging and reshaping generations of stereotypes and distress, McFetridge sees her role as a facilitator, but one that has to push boundaries. She finds an irony in the public perception of artists: people think creative arts are neutral, but the arts are always far from neutral in their mission. If McFetridge is to be a torch bearer in the Conflict Resolution Olympics, she has to push audiences to the edge of their capacity, both physically and mentally.   “I don’t look for balance, I don’t look for neutrality; I think I would be naïve if I did that. I think every artist by their very nature is political; we’re all individuals, we’re all human. I think the spontaneity and the honesty and the responsibility of the artist weighs very heavy on me. Emotionally, it is something that resonates between the artist and audience.” For McFetridge, even the most ordinary of locations can be transformed into a vehicle of contemplation. From staging productions in the back of taxis, to alongside walking tours of the infamous Falls Road, and inside of synagogues, plays can break the fourth wall and come (un)comfortably close to unspoken truths. Often, by altering the most normal and benign of environments, there is a new threat and new frontier, reflecting on deep seated problems. “I think if it’s not something I’m curious about, or something I have problems with or something I have issues with, it’s not going to have that possibility of change, it’s not going to have the danger or the risk, or something to say. “There was a play I did in a moving black taxi on the Falls Road in Belfast. Because of 40 years of divisions, there is not city center living. Divisions remain strong. Planners want to find a way of connecting the people all around the city outskirts with the city center. So I created this show in a black taxi. Audience of five. Taxi driver is an actor, actress in the back. And we treat the audience like tourists. And the idea is the taxi driver is giving his version of the city, the woman in the back hasn’t been there since 1965, so she is seeing the city with fresh eyes and she is trying to reconcile why her family took her away. But the city is the backdrop to the show. “So you go up the Falls Road in the taxi, you go through the peace wall, which we had to get opened every day by a wee man with a key, and down the Shankill. We brought it back three months later because of its success and I had to rewrite lots of it because murals had changed, there were new debates happening, we had to reinvent it. “Then we were asked to do it for Derry, City of Culture. Take the model and use it for Derry. Yes I could use the model, but the play had to be completely different. The backdrop is completely different, the politics are completely different, what you want to know about the city is completely different. “I create more and more shows that have elements that can be taken out and repurposed for different events and locations. It is interesting to see how you take the model of the show and share that model with someone in a country somewhere else and then it isn’t the show that travels, but the logistics and the methodology of how a show travels through space.” The touring taxi was a huge success, but McFetridge is well aware that finite divisions can affect her work. Kabosh almost folded after an Irish Jewish backlash forced the cancellation of a number of their shows in the Belfast synagogue. Her work with the Coiste Republican Ex-Prisoners was accused of softening political tours, in line with Republican sympathisers. Acceptance is something that is still a daily struggle in Northern Ireland. McFetridge references an oppressive environment and atmosphere where people are constantly mulling over events, happy, sad, angry, and emotional. “We have to ask difficult questions and be prepared to answer difficult questions and we don’t know what is going to happen, but if you go through 40 years of conflict, it is going to take at least 80 years to get over it. It’s long-term work and the rest of the world isn’t looking at us anymore and they think we’re sorted. 'Oh look at them, aren’t they good, they’ve got peace.\ As if we’re an example to the world. That’s not happened. And you can see the cracks starting to happen. “The terrible statistic that there are the same number of people who have died by taking their own life through suicide, that died over the 40 years of conflict. That’s a terrible statistic. And the damage of suicide on family units and the ripple effect of that, that’s small-scale work and some of the social issues that have been masked because of 40 years of conflict are starting to come out. There need to be conversations about conflict and health...physical health issues, emotional and psychological health issues, homelessness, poverty, marital abuse, personal identity, sense of abandonment.” Northern Ireland’s "Good Friday Agreement" of the 1990s is far from a shiny resolution. Generations face different emerging struggles across all social barriers. There are limitations for young people, not only politically but also socially and economically. Employment, particularly in the arts, is flagging and unrepresentation of new ideas only breeds further resentment. Meanwhile, older generations have lived through The Troubles, and are now struggling to identify as victors or victims. The visceral barrier creates political disengagement, a choice not to experience an Ireland that was hostile for so many decades. As McFetridge reflects on all of this, she becomes hotly passionate as to the flux in Northern Ireland. Now is a critical time period in which to meet unresolved issues, before another generation is galvanised into action by recurring divisions. But there is no easy victory in this marathon, as McFetridge soliloquises, “How do you deal with levels of aggression that inevitably come from a long lineage of war?”    
Paula McFetridge was a session participant at the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts", which was supported by the Edward T Cone Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung. You can read interviews with a number of the other speakers and participants of the session on the webpage:
Patricia Garza: "Theatre changes lives!"
Patricia Garza: "Theatre changes lives!"
Alex Jackson 
If there were a young Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar who knew a thing or two about innovation, Patricia Garza would certainly be amongst the most notable alum. Not simply satisfied with her role in theatre work, she goes into the community to challenge preconceptions of the arts and drama, engages young people in group projects, advocates for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rights and, when she has time, dabbles in fashion design. 
“I don’t sleep,” she jokes in an interview with Salzburg Global Seminar at 8:30 in the morning Los Angeles time. She has a coffee to hand, ready to kick-start another day crammed full of activities.
For the last seven years, Garza has been at Center Theatre Group, the largest non-profit theatre company on the West Coast of the United States. Since first attending Salzburg Global Seminar in 2012 as part of the inaugural Young Cultural Leaders (now Young Cultural Innovators) Forum, Garza has carried her torch of responsibility out into the Greater Los Angeles area, encouraging arts participation across various social backgrounds. In her career with Center Theatre Group, she has moved on from working in their education and community partnerships department (her work with which was part of the reason for her nomination as a Young Cultural Leader) to take on a role as New Play Production Manager, where she is helping to integrate the themes and practices of diversity and inclusion into CTG’s new plays.
“My experience with the Seminar was to say the least life changing. It really humbled me in a way that really opened my eyes to the bigger picture of the world, and allowed me to discuss what it means to be part of an arts movement or culture movement in a global society. That really informed my work to expand it very wide: It is not just about exposure and access, but it is also communicating and making sure that as artists we are working as people who are socially conscious and have something to say,” says Garza.
In order to accomplish this, Garza’s work portfolio is constantly diversifying: from the LGBTQ community to Latinos, she actively seeks out those who might not be traditionally involved in theatre or the arts, to provide alternative media of expression.  “Theatre changes lives!” exclaims Garza. “It’s about an access and entry point of acceptance, because with theatre you’re able to try somebody else’s life on for size or express yourself in a way that you wouldn’t normally do with your friends or family. It’s very healing for young people and even for ordinary community members. So even if you’re not necessarily at risk, or even a young person at risk—if you’re just a mom that has never taken a moment to think about the arts in their life—you do it every day with very small things that we do, so everyone identifies. For me, theatre already is integrated in our lives: It’s really just about giving people the opportunity to build community and giving them the opportunity to express themselves in ways that are very healing.”
In the United States, a country whose constitution is based upon values of equality, there is still a great need for therapeutic arts and means of healing—especially with regards to the LGBTQ community, with whom Garza works. A study published last November by UCLA suggested that as many as 21% of the LGBTQ workforce in the United States report being discriminated against because of their sexuality, and orientation could account for a pay discrepancy of a third compared to the wage of a heterosexual man in the same position.
“One of the big reasons why through my work at the Centre Theatre Group I have been focusing on outreach with LGBTQ communities is because it can be very equalizing and I think for us we want to ensure that every community group is represented and has their voice.  “Through some of my national work with [the] Theatre Communications Group, I am also a Young Leader of Color, and something we talk about a lot is diversity and making sure the American theatre scene is diverse… not just racially but also regarding ability, gender identity, race, age… To really make sure that what is reflected on our stages is really what is happening in our communities.”
If any part of the US were synonymous with the idea of the “American Dream,” it would be LA, with its beaches, film industry and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is a shining beacon, a testament to consumerism, capitalism and media stereotypes that restrict expression and identities of certain groups. Garza tackles these issues head on, using theatre as a means by which to inject change into the fashion industry too. She hopes to introduce a new clothing line that would help transgender or gender neutral persons in expressing their gender identity. A recent study reported that approximately 41% of those who identified as transgender or non-conforming in their gender identity had attempted suicide – nine times the heterosexual average. In this light, it is not difficult to see why Garza takes her work seriously.
“In my own work, I have explored LGBTQ rights so a big project of mine is definitely exploring some of this backlash,” explains Garza.
“A new project I have been brewing up with my partner and some colleagues is how we gender express ourselves through our clothing and how that can have ramifications in our everyday lives. 
“Something I have been trying to get off the ground as a fashion line is clothing that is gender neutral. So for people that do not specifically identify as male or as female, they are able to wear something that is very similar and is comfortable and really fits their personality. That is another walking art piece to really have LGBTQ people join in on the fashion dialogue.”
Much of Garza’s work is aimed at building tolerance and trust of diverse community groups. She feels that theatre is intrinsically linked in breaking down these ideas of prejudice espoused by Hollywood executives, as the media is a powerful tool. Being able to probe difficult issues via the arts allows people the opportunity to dispel their ignorance or misconceptions. Her Salzburg experience helped in shaping this approach: the key is innovation. 
“Salzburg made you think ‘How am I innovative in my work or how am I innovative through my art?’ and this dialogue that I have been having about LGBTQ gender identities through fashion, my collaborative partnership with some alums, through young people and their inclusiveness are informed through this.” 
Garza’s continuing enthusiasm for the “Salzburg Global experience” led her to be chosen to return for a strategy meeting at Schloss Leopoldskron in 2013 to critique and fine-tune the 10-year plan for the Forum, and help with the evolution of the Young Cultural Leaders Program into the new “Young Culture Innovators Program”.
Building on her own work with underserved communities, Garza is now collaborating on a project with fellow Salzburg Global Seminar Young Cultural Leaders Cecily Hardy, associate producer for Big hART Inc., working with Aboriginal Australians, and Yona Wade, director of the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center and Public Relations at Cherokee Central Schools in Cherokee, North Carolina, working with Native Americans. 
“There is a project that I am working on with some Salzburg alums which has really been impacted by the [Young Cultural Leaders/Innovators] Program. I wanted to really shift the dialogue with young people in particular about careers in the arts and awareness of their circumstances,” she explains.
“We want to make sure we form a trio of youth that can talk to one another and build cultural exchange and dialogue in order to create social change and awareness and to expose them to different cultures,” explains Garza. “Just as we got opportunities as adults to experience [Salzburg Global Seminar], we want to mini-deliver that experience to youth in [our] local communities so as they’re aware of global issues.”
As is evidenced by her global projects, Garza appreciates that her Salzburg Global experience has allowed her unprecedented access to a network of other innovative, creative talents. She believes that this accountability in the arts community and the need to share and collaborate on projects is something which encourages engagement with the public and maintains a dynamic relationship between artist and consumer. Salzburg Global Seminar has helped Garza to change her outlook on her work and see its political potentials.
“It was also very informative to be able to tap into a network of young cultural leaders that are doing such outstanding work out in the community and feed that into my own work. It helps politically so that your view can never get too narrow, and to be able to use this network as sounding boards to question: Is this going deep enough? Is this what we are all dealing with?”
All art is political of course, shaped out of the pressures of certain social, economic and governmental contexts. Ultimately, Garza’s vision is one of empowerment through the arts; a mode of expression that can move to galvanize an entire community to change the dialogue around currency to be about time exchange for artistic experiences, like with a project she consults for East LA Rep, or looking at the integration of bilingual theatre for the large Spanish-speaking community in LA. 
“We’re really shifting our focus in the next couple of years to be participatory and reach out to these communities. We don’t want to just put on theatre and you buy our ticket, end of sentence. It is about changing the dynamic and paradigm to say ‘you are arts makers and creators and we want to be part of that process with you,’” she says.
However, for Garza, it is the psychological elements of theatre, a space in which to be able to be wrong and make mistakes, that proffers the most innovative therapeutic retreats, and provides a space without restrictions. 
“It is about finding a space where you belong,” she explains. “Finding a space where people are going to love and accept you for who you are, mistakes and all. In theatre it is all about making mistakes over and over, until we get it right. And actually there is no right—and that is what makes theatre such a great haven.”
You can see more about Patricia’s work and how Salzburg Global has changed her outlook in our Faces of Leadership video series: 
Billie Okae Kadameri: "Kony himself finds art and culture to be therapeutic"
Billie Okae Kadameri: "Kony himself finds art and culture to be therapeutic"
Alex Jackson 
As a journalist, Billie Okae Kadameri is more familiar with the phrase “bad news makes good news” than most. He has had the (mis)fortune over his prolific career to report on desperate situations in countries across Africa while reporting for Radio France Internationale, and France 24's English Service where he has been an editor for 11 years. Through his work, he has not only looked into the devastation of conflict, but how media involvement provides a dynamic network through which societal restoration and healing can be spread. “You look at the human suffering and you put yourself in the situation of the victims and you imagine that you are them. Eventually you need to get back there and see some good stories coming out of a very bad situation and you find that in such situations, people lose a lot. There is a huge gap between the present reality and culture, and a lot of cultural heritage gets lost in conflict situations, but culture and arts helps in the healing process,” he explains in an interview during the session Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts, held at Schloss Leopoldskron by Salzburg Global Seminar in April. Indeed, the media landscape has drastically transformed in Africa over the past two decades. From a virtually non-existent sphere, Africans now have a rapidly expanding media and a platform on which to debate, share and interact. In 1993, for example, Uganda only had one national radio station, today there are 280. There was one national TV station, today there are 56. This influx of media by which to voice opinion is certainly a powerful tool for healing. “People do know that the media can be a very dangerous tool, but they cannot run away from the fact that it is very important too and there is massive, massive penetration of the media in modern daily life through the tools of technology all over Africa. This permeates society and people love it, and one of the best ways of entertaining people and making people happy in their everyday lives is through these media platforms,” adds Kadameri. Of course, the danger alluded to by Kadameri cannot be denied. When media really first took off in Africa, there was a great deal of abuse that has instigated a new onus for responsibility and ownership of the media. The terrible lessons of Radio Rwanda inciting genocide 20 years ago, and Kenyan papers having to bring in self-censorship in 2008 following political riots, serve as a constant reminder of the need to treat the domain carefully. “We know that art and culture have been using conflict flash points both as a therapeutic thing to help people remember and forget, and it can also be used as a tool for evil. It can ignite conflict... So there is a role there for the media in transmitting the reality of the situation and in helping people to reflect and make us look at the common good for mankind.” One of the most positive aspects of media is the way it allows art to connect across borders. Whereas previously art had a much more limited potential in Africa, and was largely restricted to localised areas, the radio and phones make art much more accessible and this brings a fervour for culture even in the midst of conflict. “The more people talk about tensions within society, the greater the possibility that that tension will be diffused before it becomes something terrible. So the media is a powerful tool. And I have been to places like South Sudan, which is still in conflict now, and when you bring culture or an artist from a foreign country, because their own cultural landscape is still not functioning well, you can see the happiness in people’s faces and you can see how it helps all ages and it is because the media made it possible for people to listen to these artists before they arrive. They have learnt about them on the radio. Radio has penetrated everywhere; the mobile phone is in the deepest villages. People use mobiles to listen to radio and some have television facilities in them. In the example of Uganda, a country of 37 million people, the mobile phone penetration is 17 million; 15 years ago there were only 46,000 phone lines, fixed lines in the country.” Through urbanization, Africa has seen a huge development drive across the continent. There has recently been a dramatic growth in urban populations, with more and more people choosing to move to emerging towns and cities rather than remain in their rural locales. As such, this increases the need and demand for information and resources, ensuring a sustained growth in media usage at the moment. The real question is how these sites are moderated to ensure that people discuss progress in a positive and distinctly advantageous manner. “The problem with social media is that there is a lot coming on the network so interest tends to wane quite fast when something new comes up. But if it is something explosive, like Kony 2012, which is still there, people will forget about it for some time, but the impact will stay. I was here in Salzburg, and I was amazed that a lady who teaches children in a certain school, they had been discussing Kony 2012 last week, so she wanted to ask me to give some more insight into it. Although people may have forgotten about such a campaign on social media, there are those who still take it and use it as a reference point. So I don’t know how people can try to keep ideas on social media networks longer than they are doing, but there is definitely more room for resurgence and doing our best and keeping focus on certain things in the media.” Kadameri is certainly impressed by the wealth of arts projects that have been started through media interaction. From these small projects, he believes there has been great support that has allowed a fruitful center for post-conflict rehabilitations through various means, whether it is music the breaches borders, arts for those who have seen terrible things, or learning from oral traditions. “We were using an example of project started by the South Sudanese diaspora with a lady from there who studied law in the UK and went back and set up the Roots of South Sudan project to reconnect the younger and older women with their culture, and started this project that brought different tribes together under one roof. When the recent conflict started, it was one of the few places in South Sudan where nobody was hurt or killed just because they were from a certain tribe. “It reconnects the South Sudanese community with their culture which they lost over 30 years of war. Many people don’t know what these culture references are. And there is new art and craft. There is a generational divide, but history is a very good therapy in healing a country's image and if you never know this image, you can never move forward in an organized and structured way. So in Rwanda nobody can forget the genocide, in South Sudan nobody will forget the war, nobody will forget Kony in Uganda; everybody in the region has seen some conflict of some sort so they know there is a way society must try to avoid this.” Kadameri is sure that the arts is something that unites across boundaries. He points to his encounters with the infamous warlord Joseph Kony, who Kadameri has interviewed and met several times, and now plans on writing a book focusing on the acts of Kony’s cult-cum-militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army. For all Kony’s heinous crimes, there is something in culture that speaks to the warlord. “You will find that he himself finds art and culture to be therapeutic. When you talk to those who have been with him in the bush, those who have stayed with him for several years, they say he is in the best mood when people are performing traditional songs for him or when he is listening to music.” In his work over the past two decades, from meetings with rebel leaders, politicians, heads of state, cultural and civil society leaders and activists to being involved in conflict prevention, mitigation, post-conflict reconstruction and television documentaries, Kadameri always finds a unifying ambition with those whom he comes into contact. No matter the background, communities and governments want to support art and cultural development as a means of reconciling the past and the future, and media is often a springboard to achieve harmony between the two. “Sometimes you tend to think that where you are coming from has seen most of the conflict, but when you are here you can see that conflict is a global issue. Nature and context may be different but it is important to talk about it because art can play a massive role in conflict. Art can be a trigger of conflict, art can be a mitigating factor in conflict and art is also very good as a kind of therapeutic treatment for people coming out of conflict and it helps people to remember what has happened and try to prevent the bad things that happened from taking place again.”      
Billie Okae Kadameri was a session participant at the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts", which was sponsored by the Edward T Cone Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung. You can read interviews with a number of the other speakers and participants of the session on the webpage:
Nigel Osborne: "Music can make sound pleasurable instead of frightening"
Nigel Osborne: "Music can make sound pleasurable instead of frightening"
Alex Jackson 
Nigel Osborne remains a hidden gem of British composing and music. His formidable talents marked him as one of the best composers of the late 20th century. Through his early works, such as I Am Goya, and a Glyndebourne commission, The Electrification of the Soviet Union, Osborne had readily established himself as an innovative and exciting composer by the time Bosnian conflict erupted. It is from here that his musical history takes a very different path from the establishment. In pushing the agenda on Bosnia through the European Council Summit held in Edinburgh in 1992, Osborne quickly discovered a new role in which he could use music to engage and tackle the crisis. “My work in this particular area in terms of trying to support children suffering from consequences of conflict goes back to the early 1990s. I had worked in this general area for half a century, but the specific conflict area from that time and it started in Bosnia where by chance we almost stumbled on some methods and approaches that seemed to be very helpful for children. We were given encouragement from the Ministry for Health and we developed those into a series of more focussed methods,” he explains in an interview during the session Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts, held at Schloss Leopoldskron by Salzburg Global Seminar in April. Pioneering this new form of musical therapy, Osborne, now a professor of music at Edinburgh University, harnesses the power of music to help children overcome conflict through self-expression. Of course, this is not a traditional career progression, and Osborne looks at his composer past with mixed sentiments. His eclectic contributions to different genres of music has granted him artistic liberty and malleability to adapt music to different situations and problems, but his way of shaping this music has certainly raised some eyebrows along the way. “What helped me most of all is having had a very varied music background...I am a classical musician in part by training but have had a rock’n’roll musician, jazz musician and folk musician and have also explored a number of different world cultures and studied African music, Indian music, South East Asian music. You pick up things through immersing yourself into the world; you discover new things that are going to be helpful for kids in certain situations. It pulls together in an interesting way, a fascinating way. So the most useful thing for my background is its plurality. I don’t think it’s helped me in anything else, I think it’s been a hindrance in a professional way, because people have not been able to bracket me in the way they would like to,” he muses. His approach may be somewhat anti-establishment, but there is certainly a great deal of support for what Osborne is achieving from many in the medical profession, really standing as a testament to the collaborative power of the arts in healing traumas, post-conflict. “I think the aid work and the humanitarian area were the most skeptical in term of the work. Of course it might be a threat to standard ways of proceeding with psycho-socio work so we certainly had to deal with skepticism. We never had to deal with skepticism from the medical profession; they recognized the value from the beginning. Doctors are pragmatic people and they latched onto it," Osbourne explains. “We have a very strong bedrock of evidence that helps. Music therapy is perhaps the most evidenced of the creative arts therapies at various levels, so that helps. The higher up, the further up bureaucracies you go, the more resistance you meet. The closer you get to the grassroots and the coal face the more welcoming the situation.” Unsurprisingly, what might be initially considered an unusual method of healing has caught on with many locals. While the music provides entertainment and welcome distraction in post-war periods, the benefits go far beyond simple amusement purposes. In addressing issues of memory, music is able to provide a way to work through sound associations and build trust relationships. “One of the first things that music can do is get children back into being happy and back into playing together and back into trusting others," says Osbourne. “Music has a trust concentration focus and acts as a social awareness building exercise. Of course there are many things beyond the social. Music is full of transferrable skills from that point of view. Learning to remember and understand music structures is a very pure way of building gestalt in the brain and ways of dealing with more abstract material. Music has the distinct advantage of being both very abstract and concrete. “Of course there is the issue of memory, linked to very important things in the education process, creativity. We are able to help through these; we encourage children the whole time to compose and create, so we are nurturing creativity through the education process. We based a lot of our work in schools where we did a hybrid of education on therapeutic work and then had a music therapy department.” Osborne is all too aware of the sensitive nature of his work in these conflict torn areas. For many, music can have negative associations too and there is a considerable fear amongst children, who instantly connect loud noises with sounds of warfare. By giving the children the means by which to produce their own sounds, there is an encouraging number of students who overcome these phobias. “The area we can help most is often in fear conditioning and so on. So very often children who have been exposed to the sounds of blasts have great exaggerated responses to acoustic shock, to the extent of making them very anxious sometimes and we can help with that. By working with children and sounds where they control the sounds, there are simple exercises that allow a child to experiment with the frontier of sounds that they find tolerable or not and we have had a lot of success working in that way. “Music is very much processed sight. So music can be reprocessed into sounds in a way that is pleasurable and much more stimulating rather than frightening.” However, these are far from the only reasons for people to be celebrating musical therapy. Communities have noticed significant health improvements by participating in regular musical activity, which is encouraging in reconnecting children with their society and their community. Young people feel much more engaged and active. “We now know there are very direct neuro-physiological issues addressed by trauma, such as raised heart rate, disturbed movement repertoires, irregular breathing and endocrine regulation that can have a regulating effect so there are often some quite quick results, but we had to be careful not to go for that quick reward alone. Because there are very quick rewards and we can relieve things very quickly, parents see that and respond very well. We have great enthusiasm for music therapy programs. “I think the other thing is that people don’t always see it as clinical; they see it as what kids should be doing. If we had a better world and no war, what would we like our children to be doing? Maybe learning music. So it is a normal life aspect if you think about it that the parents like.” Moreover, the positive use of music in post conflict is that it can act as a beacon of tolerance. Instead of hearing chants and songs of rebel groups and opposing forces, music from other centres of culture around the world are appropriated to give children who are otherwise isolated a taste of different traditions and arts around the world. This further builds the children’s repertoire and understanding of both their own culture and where that fits in the world. “Human beings have created different kinds of music around the world that tend to address different aspects of our common selves. This is why a lot of Europeans can find West African music exciting, Arabic music hypnotic, Indian music fascinating. There are different musics to represent different emotions and so in the therapeutic process we may need those things. I cannot find, for example, anything as strong and full of rhythm as West African and even East African music. So I use it and the kids love it and will combine it with their own rhythmic works. “There are two ways of using this, it helps us look beyond the culture, but it is very important that we are still in the culture because there is another element very often the reverse of music being disturbing, music can be reassuring and can be associated with identity and so that can reinforce a person’s identity.” The creativity and dynamism this affords is something that excites Osborne greatly. More than just reintegrating into society, musical expressionism has found a place that not only gives children a voice, but affords them a powerful instrument, by which they produce pieces beyond their years. “They can be producing distinguished work themselves: when there is a first rate product from children themselves, we need not look any further than the source for the story.”
Nigel Osborne was a session speaker at the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts", which was sponsored by the Edward T Cone Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung. You can read interviews with a number of the other speakers and participants of the session on the webpage:
Phloeun Prim: "Cambodia had to start from scratch"
Phloeun Prim: "Cambodia had to start from scratch"
Alex Jackson 
“The West still sees Cambodia through the Killing Fields,” explains Phloeun Prim, the executive director of Cambodia Living Arts, in an interview during the session Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts, held at Schloss Leopoldskron by Salzburg Global Seminar in April. “It’s funny; I was talking to some producer in the US to bring them to Cambodia to do a documentary. And even today they talk about the last image they see when they think of Cambodia and it is this image of the killing field. 'That field' they ask – and Cambodia is the only country that is defined by a killing field.” Prim, who was born in Cambodia, but lived in Canada from the age of three, moved back to his homeland in 1998 as part of a European Union project to reunite artisans with their heritage and culture. Since then, Prim has developed his interest in social entrepreneurship, which has helped him to encourage young artists in Cambodia to explore their traditional roots. “I think so often students that will want to study arts in countries will be the poorest students. What I want to be able to prove is that you can create a career out of your arts, whether that is by presenting your traditions or creating new work. The economic development is to give the motivation for artists to pursue the work that they are doing so that they don’t think there is no future for that and in fact if we create this future, we inspire them and if artists can play that important role of being the voice and expression of a nation I think it is how we build society and strong society.” Strong societies function by becoming self-sustainable and by adapting to their environments. For Prim, he first explored this through what is now Artisans d’Angkor. Since its launch, the group of 50 artisans has now turned into a company employing over a 1000 artisans and staff that distribute high quality crafts in Cambodia and around the world, allowing artists to explore their culture  and earn a living. “I think there’s a fine balance in between your heritage and contemporary expressions, because I think art is a living culture and for me I have a strong belief in living arts, because it lives and evolves.” “Our focus is on looking at the model of the socio-entrepreneurial where these arts can sustain a living because I think in the end its about how you bring back the identity in the recovery phase, you then transmit that knowledge because of the oral tradition, and you build a capacity of these artists and the sector but you want to look at that in a sustainable way that will continue. So we are helping them to think about economic development through some of our programs on creative industry looking at ways these arts can sustain and generate income and then develop and regenerate themselves.” The regeneration of the arts in Cambodia is no easy feat. Just as the idea of the Killing Fields has become a synonymous image for the genocide that took place, it has also come to represent a close death of the traditional Cambodia, a place of dance, song, oral customs and temples. Between 1975 and 1979, during the Khmer Rouge’s years of terror, 90% of the artists living in Cambodia – like much of the educated class – were systematically targeted and killed, really pushing back and limiting cultural activity in the country. This led to the creation of Cambodian Living Arts in the late 1990s, when founder, human rights activist and artist, Arn Chorn-Pond decided to invest in disappearing arts. He felt that if the cultures were allowed to die out, this would be another ‘victory’ for the Khmer Rouge. “Arn Chorn-Pond’s vision, because of the strong, oral traditions of Cambodian performing arts, felt that if there is nothing that is done, those masters who survived (and there were only a few of them) would die with their skill. So within a generation, Cambodian identity and culture would be lost forever. So we set up classes in the countryside, created schools without a wall, asking and engaging young generations of Cambodians so connecting the elder and the younger. Since we started, there’s a whole new generation of emerging artists that have come out of our program, but also the country can be seen to be moving forward.” Artists are often seen as a marker of the cultural freedoms and developments within a country. Their right to publish or work, and the environment in which it is created reflects on the progression (or regression) of a country. This is part of the reason given behind the Khmer Rouge’s targeting of artists. “Artists represent the voice of nations and also I think it was a strong rejection from the Khmer Rouge of this Western influence of expressions. Just looking to the history of Cambodia, the period before the Khmer Rouge was very intense around the border with the Vietnam War, and the US influence and then the US bombing Cambodia.   “The Khmer Rouge wanted to bring back the sense of identity and having everyone equal. They wanted to have everyone in a society that is based on the work with the earth and so agriculture and peasantry, rural people with no religion, no culture and no education. The extent of the tragedy afterwards I would refer to year zero for Cambodia; we had to start from scratch.” In his attempts to reconcile the image of Cambodia before and after the massacres, Prim uses his self-coined term, the “two Ts” – temples and tragedy. By considering the two different images, he believes that people can measure how far Cambodia has come in terms of recognising its past and moving on from it. The problem is often a generational divide, marked by how 75% of the population are under the age of 35. “What it is important for Cambodians themselves is to be able to move beyond that tragedy for the generation who lived through it, and for the new generation it is to understand the past and the memory because even the generation that haven’t lived through this are psychologically effected by it because of their parents.” To facilitate discussion, there needs to be an open forum for exchange. This is why Prim launched a living arts festival, Seasons of Cambodia, which had its inaugural tour last April. The festival brought hundreds of Cambodia artists, from painters to dancers to singers and beyond, to New York City for a six-week festival that highlighted the array and diversity of Cambodia beyond the Killing Fields on an international scene. The project was really intense and ensured that Cambodians collaborated and shared their experiences across perceived divides to learn together. “To regain identity, I think one of the basic human needs is that generation connection. I think we often tend to, with this world of technology and advancements, we often forget about the oral transmissions, but it is where I think the transfer is at the most [important] in terms of social, cultural behaviour of human being from generation to generation and so what we have provided is really that opportunity to connect the old master and the really young generation of Cambodians.” Prim now hopes to invite NGOs and artists from around the world to experience Seasons In Cambodia so as they can experience the art culture in its unique environment firsthand.
Phloeun Prim was a session speaker at the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts", which was sponsored by the Edward T Cone Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung. You can read interviews with a number of the other speakers and participants of the session on the webpage:
Mike van Graan: Connecting the Arts & Culture to Peace-building Agendas
Mike van Graan: Connecting the Arts & Culture to Peace-building Agendas
Mike van Graan 

On this final day of our session dealing with conflict, culture and connecting the arts to peace-building, I would like to make the counter-intuitive case for art that provokes conflict.

We live in a world characterized by two essential fault lines: inequality and culture; inequality in the distribution of material wealth, political power and the military means to assert and defend these on the one hand; and, on the other, culture – values, belief systems and world views and the audio-visual and media means to project and assert these.  Conflicts with their roots in the maldistribution of wealth and power, often find their expression in the cultural sphere, so that culture is both a site of, and a contributor to struggle, though not necessarily its primary cause.

On the occasion of the USA rejoining UNESCO after 9/11 subsequent to a long absence, Laura Bush suggested that UNESCO “can now help to achieve peace by spreading the values that will defeat terror and lead to a better and safer world”.  The obvious questions arising from this declaration are: Which values?  Whose interests would this “peace” serve?  Who sets the peace agenda?  Who suffers in securing such “peace”?

Brown University’s “Cost of Wars Project” estimates that in the ten years after 9/11 in which 3000 Americans tragically lost their lives, 225 000 people were killed as a result of “the war on terror”, with at least $3,2 trillion spent on the war in that time.  What “values” does this suggest?  That the life of one American is more valuable than 70 Pakistanis, Iraqis, Afghans? That there is greater moral rectitude in obscene expenditure on war to deal with the symptoms of inequality, rather than on its causes? 

With the rapid growth of neo-liberal economics at the World Trade Organization in the 90s, “cultural diversity” was advocated by countries like France, Canada and Australia to protect their share of the global audio-visual market, and to counter America’s cultural hegemony.  9/11 reshaped the narrative about conflict, now viewed as the clash of civilizations, as cultural conflicts.  Accordingly, “cultural diversity” which affirmed difference, made way for “intercultural dialogue” and “cultural diplomacy” to facilitate “common values to defeat terror”.  In short, the economic and security interests of wealthy nations shape much of the international cultural agenda and discourse.

If this is true, then to pursue peace without addressing the fundamental and structural inequities that are the base of conflict, is to perpetuate such inequities and injustices, and to serve minority interests.  It is against this background that I would argue for art that is provocative, challenging and disturbing as it challenges unjust status quos, and presents alternative visions that could result in more sustainable peace.

I work within the “culture and development” paradigm that, historically, was premised on the notion that the culture of the intended beneficiaries could be a facilitator, but mostly a hindrance to development.  There is seldom the acknowledgement that “development” most often emanating from global north paradigms, is itself an act of culture, premised as it is on particular values, beliefs and worldviews and potentially rupturing – for better or worse (who decides?) – the culture of the supposed beneficiaries of development. Nor is there generally a recognition that development serves particular geo-political, security or economic interests.

Similarly, the pursuit of peace is not just a political act, it is an act of culture to capture hearts and minds.  Temporary peace may be forced through bombs, bullets and drones, but ultimately, peace that is based on fear, is unsustainable for there will come a time when a tipping point is reached, and fear no longer serves as a deterrent.  For decades, the dictatorships of North Africa served the geo-political, security and economic interests of wealthy nations, a project characterized by repressive peace in which the human rights and freedoms of the citizens of those countries, were expendable.  Until the so-called Arab Spring unleashed a sudden concern for democracy, a system that itself is based on cultural values affirming individualism over communalism. 

And yet, democratic values are made meaningless when two democracies can invade a country despite an overwhelming UN vote to the contrary, when another country can exercise its veto and annex part of another country, when countries withdraw from UNESCO after a democratic vote to recognize Palestine as a full member, or when people decide to vote in governments that are less favored by Western democracies, such as Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, which are then undermined by those democracies.  Whose values, whose idea of democracy, whose interests inform our pursuit of peace?  Do we really share values, worldviews and beliefs related to peace and democracy, when we do not talk about or agree on justice?

“The white actors are speaking more than the black actors” suggested an audience member in the Truth in Translation movie.  South Africa has long been a microcosm of the global world order, the apartheid era resonating with the colonial period in which a mainly white minority was privileged through the exploitation of the black majority, bolstered by a repressive military machine. Post-1994, the South African elite has expanded to coopt a few more, but the structures of inequity remain, leading to the building up of social tensions that are unsustainable in the medium term.  And so it is globally: wealthy nations and their co-opted national elites in the global south; more than the 1% targeted by the Occupy Movement, but nevertheless a minority, with these structural inequities manifested in conflicts in many regions, conflicts that will be exacerbated by growing environmental degradation, climate change and the impact of these on increasing numbers of desperate people on the underside of history.  In such a world, who speaks?  Who leads?  Who sets the peace-making agenda?  In whose interests?  Whose cultural dominance – including whose language - prevails?  What roles do the arts play – consciously or unconsciously – in serving hegemonic interests?   Where is the line between genuinely seeking to address post-conflict situations through art, and using soft power to co-opt the parties involved?  Context is everything.  A piece of orchestral music enjoyed for its own sake in Vienna, would be associated with elitism in South Africa with its high Gini-coefficient while the same piece played by an orchestra from Afghanistan in Washington, may place a target on their backs as agents of western cultural imperialism.

So, what is to be done?  There is no global social justice and arts movement, no global peace, justice and culture formation that could intervene either rapidly in conflict zones with symbolic acts, or over an extended period with appropriate artistic interventions in the manner of, for example, Greenpeace.  Perhaps there is a space for such a formation, but under the leadership of those from conflict and post-conflict zones.  For it might just be that in the counterintuitive surrender of power that is the natural preserve of those blessed with resource and cultural dominance, that solutions for sustainable peace may be devised and realized.

Chrystal Tettey: "Can We Eat Art?"
Chrystal Tettey: "Can We Eat Art?"
Alex Jackson 
A spoken word artist by trade, Tettey is an advocate of alternative means by which people can tackle huge issues, be that through art, dance, or, in her case, poems, words and singing. She believes that art provides a safe space which is incomparable in other disciplines. “On stage, I burst open and all of these things and thoughts in my head come alive. I feel like arts is one of the few places you are safe being politically incorrect and broaching a lot of issues. And with spoken word, I don’t necessarily have to talk about one particular issue in one piece. I am talking about many things at once.” The diversity and flexibility of the art form allows her to confront a great number of the inequalities. Issues such as gender insensitivity and youth unemployment ground much of her oeuvre, providing a framework in which to talk about wider questions pertaining to sustainable peace. “We frequently raise the issue of involving younger people in our projects in Ghana. “Even though they might not be considered to have enough experience to make informed input and decisions, it definitely helps to have a wide variety of age groups because, after all, we are leaving the world to them eventually and older generations have been contaminated by the negativity, so it helps to have their input, their reflections and their fresh, positive approach.” Galvanizing youth motivation is a proactive way of dealing with culture and identity questions, where generation divides often increase miscommunication across age groups. Slam, a form of artistic expression that involves emotive poetry and rap, is seen as a new frontier for Tettey, with its no holds barred approach, allowing young people to experiment with (minority) languages, loaded terminology and colloquialisms. Tettey is actively involved in one such slam project piloting this year in schools in Ghana. “We will be working with 13-18 year olds. Considering we often think that adults have all the answers and solutions (which is unfair), what we will do is open the floor to the children and ask them what do you guys think? I feel like as an artist, we will have to adapt, get into the post conflict environment and realize that conventional ways won’t work and probably offend. And slam can combat that, as a new space and we can then work on new music and see how that develops.” Seemingly opposing sections of society often find their links and cultural heritage through such innovative approaches. Whilst participants in the African Women Peacemakers Program work across many obvious barriers, most of all languages, there is unification through the scale of conflict. “We’re joined together by poverty, the severity of African conflict, the fact that there are child soldiers all over, In Liberia and Sierra Leone, even in Ghana, because a large refugee community settled in Ghana. We find there is always a mark, for example you find them with one arm. It is that horrific. “Sometimes you would hear stories and just tear up because it was too brutal. There was a story of a lady, Abigail from Sierra Leone. One day, when she was 12-years-old, her house, a compound home of about 20 people, was surrounded by rebels. On loudspeaker, they announced, ‘Apparently there is a virgin in the house. We don’t intend to kill everybody but we want the virgin.’ And her mum said, ‘Over my dead body!’ But Abigail thought, ‘this makes no sense! There are 20 people here; if I offer myself that saves 19 lives.’ The rebels kept terrorizing the compound for about two hours, and Abigail was on the verge of leaving, when the UN Peace Keeping Mission drove by and dispersed the rebels. And if you were to meet Abigail, she is timid. But it probably isn’t a unique case.” Dynamics of such diverse groups constantly shift as they are affected by such a wealth of different histories across the continent. Yet one thing that Tettey is impressed by is the resilience of many of the female contributors in their approach, their vivacity. “I remember the trainings for the African Women Peacemakers, the women were always finding time to dance after sessions and tell stories and have a good time because, especially for Liberians and Sierra Leoneans, they never knew whether tomorrow would come so they are always in a festive mood so as to appreciate the here and now.” Such groups tend to be the most appreciative of the development of art work, no matter where in Africa there is progress. The scale of atrocities, genocide, and cultural repression over a series of decades is telling of both tribal conflicts on a local level and the enduring legacy of imperialism. “We talk about colonialism and new colonialism. For me it is different manifestations of the same thing. In Madagascar for example, I noticed that the French had a lot of say in terms of who became president. Apparently they will have a lot of say in how the country is run for decades. These countries will be dependent and inside of French countries forever and so in that sense colonialism never left.” Nonetheless, the determination to tackle these issues on their own terms, has been on the rise, no matter the difficulty of coordinating this effort, which somewhat astounds the Malagasy-Ghanaian artist. “Communication is a huge issue. When we were putting together the training of trainers, we would send out emails to participants all across the continent to come to a central place and sometimes we would get responses two weeks later because access is not a given. And a lot of these women are grassroots women so they walk miles to cyber cafes, I don’t know how they type sometimes.” However, this drive for artist endeavors is not a universal guarantee. For Tettey, there has to be consideration of the best areas and fields in which to negotiate art, so as people are not offended by its provocative nature. In conflict torn regions, fragility is a concern and instead of healing people through the trauma process, there are significant groups that are offended. “Last year, there was a festival in Ghana on a coastal community, and the people asked questions like ‘Can we eat art?’ because for them, earning a livelihood is much more important than entertaining yourself. So there is a disconnection between art and development work.” Such groups do not take stock of nuanced work that regenerates and rejuvenates societies through tackling specific causes on individual levels. Art might not be something edible, but its nourishment for communities cannot be doubted. Whether Tettey is tackling women’s rights, youth education or imperial influence, all of these mission statements fall under a single strand for her: “Although the dynamics are different, we all know there is one place that we need to get to and that is peace; sustainable peace.”
Crystal Tettey was a session participant at the Salzburg Global Seminar session "Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace Building and the Arts", which was sponsored by the Edward T Cone Foundation and Robert Bosch Stiftung. You can read interviews with a number of the other speakers and participants of the session on the webpage:
Displaying results 106 to 112 out of 138


How should cultural institutions approach the creation and articulation of value?
Albino Jopela, archaelogist and lecturer at Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique suggests that considering the values of all of the stakeholders in a community will help ensure relevance and sustainability.

Why is it important for arts leaders to engage in cross-cultural conversations?
Jimena Lara Estrada, program coordinator for the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, talks about connecting with other leaders and the hope that it instills.

How do you articulate value of arts in a society where it is largely seen as a commodity?
Eyad Houssami, founding director of Masrah Ensemble in Lebanon, talks about the challenges of making a case for the arts in a society where the concept of public value is very limited.

What role should orchestras play in their communities?
Mark Gillespie, general and artistic manager of Orchestra of the Americas and Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders Fellow, suggests that orchestras should connect with youth at a very early age so that musicians grow out of the community.