With s’mores ingredients and charcoal prominently displayed in supermarkets across the United States, summer is definitely in full swing. The change of seasons comes with an increase in activity, so for this month’s edition of Soft Power, the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy is showcasing eight events from around the globe that brought people together to encourage unexpected dialogue.
2015 European Games – Baku, Azerbaijan
If you can’t wait until next year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil, check out the 2015 European Games. From June 12-28, this multi-sport event brought together 50 countries for some friendly competition. Hosted in Baku, the capital and largest city in Azerbaijan, this year’s inaugural games aimed to strengthen a mutual European identity amongst many diverse cultures. Other instances of sports diplomacy for the month of June include: The South East Asia Games, FIFA’s Women’s World Cup, The US Open, and Wimbledon. Who are you rooting for?
Aga Kahn Park – Toronto, Canada
Toronto’s Aga Kahn Museum celebrates one year in September, and to kick things off, they opened the green space between the museum and the adjacent Ismaili Center this month. The venue will be host to various programming throughout the year, so check their website for more details. With ample space for both individual reflection and communal gatherings, the park seeks to foster dialogue regarding Muslim civilizations and cultures.
Koala-mania, Singapore Zoo – Singapore
Four Australian koalas are now enjoying their eucalyptus at the Singapore Zoo. As part of a diplomatic initiative between the two countries, the marsupials celebrate 50 years of Singapore’s independent sovereignty, as well as its 50-year relationship with Australia. On loan for six months, the animals represent just one of many historic animal exchanges between various countries.
Afro-Fest 2015 – Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia
Encapsulating the rhythm and sound of an entire continent may prove a difficult task, but bands representing more than 20 African nations traveled to Russia June 6 and 7 for Afro-Fest 2015. Beyond music, the event included dance, food, and art to promote mutual understanding between Africans and Russians. All earned income returns to the festival, thus supporting future development and cultural programming. For a case study detailing Ghana’s participation, learn more here.
Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival – New York, New York
The 15th anniversary of the Egg Roll and Egg Cream Festival, hosted by The Museum at Eldridge Street, came with a delicious new addition this year. Representing the growing Puerto Rican community on the Lower East Side, the inclusion of empanadas in the title reveals a dynamic interplay of cultures. The block party, held on June 7, featured an assortment of food, music, folk arts, and even language lessons.
Sketchbook Project – Around the World
The Sketchbook Project began as a collaborative art initiative that collected sketchbooks from artists across the globe. The results are available to view online, but in an effort to promote ‘analogue’ access, the main collection is housed in the Brooklyn Art Library. Alternatively, a curated selection of the submissions is now in publication. Aptly titled The Sketchbook Project World Tour, the book represents some of the 33,000 artists from over 100 countries.
International Yoga Day – Around the World
For the first time this year, the world celebrated International Yoga Day on June 21. Nearly 200 countries participated in the global downward-facing dog. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the holiday less than three months prior, marking this as one of the fastest UN implementations to date. The ancient practice of yoga has received much attention in the last decade, and Modi’s goal was to present it as India’s gift to the world to promote peace and happiness. Namaste to all those who participated.
Summer Solstice Celebrations – Northern Hemisphere
Across the Northern Hemisphere, each culture celebrates the longest day of the year differently. Perhaps most notably, this year an estimated 23,000 people gathered to watch the sun rise at Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. Closer to the Arctic Circle, concertgoers took advantage of the abundant sunlight at Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival. On the other side of the globe, the Southern Hemisphere experienced the opposite effect, but with an equal amount of revelry. The indigenous Mapuche people of Chile celebrate a new year with an event called we tripantu, or rising of the new sun. Find out about more Summer Solstice events here.
While we are sad to say goodbye to June, certainly the rest of summer will continue these exciting trends and inspire people to get out and get connected. Stay in the loop and check back in next month for our roundup of soft power diplomacy.
Think we missed something? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet it to @MeridianIntl.