As August, and consequently summer, sadly comes to a close, the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy is back to round up some of this past month’s soft power events. The following selection highlights cultural exchange through community engagement in the globalized world. For the summer season, this interconnectedness means lots of festivals, so read on to see how diverse communities are coming together to celebrate around the world.
ASEAN Cultural Center – Bangkok, Thailand
The Association of South East Asian Nations introduced a new cultural center in Bangkok on August 7th. Located on the third floor of the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center, the space includes a series of exhibitions on the life, history, and culture of the member nations, which include Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and others. Among the offerings, visitors can watch a documentary, try on traditional clothing from various regions, and even sample local cuisines. Innovative multimedia enhances the experience while encouraging a positive learning environment.
Parapan American Games – Toronto, Canada
Capping off a summer full of sports diplomacy, the 2015 Parapan American Games closed in Toronto on August 15th. The week-long competition featured an assortment of sports, with 28 nations participating in the Paralympic division in events that included wheelchair rugby, judo, and goalball. Learn more about the differences in the Parapan games here. Congratulations to all the participants and fans who made this year’s Parapan Am Games the largest to date. Lima, Peru, hosts the next edition in 2019.
UN International Day Of … – Around the World
The United Nations recognizes certain causes, events, and groups throughout the year with their ‘International Day Of …’ series, and August was no exception. Included in this month’s offerings were: International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, International Youth Day, World Humanitarian Day, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition, International Day Against Nuclear Tests, and International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Every year, the UN selects a different theme for each of these observances, such as health care or civic engagement. Explore all the observances here.
International Festival of Arts – Singapore
This year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts began on August 6th and continues until September 19th. For the first time, an artist, Singapore native Ong Keng Sen, is directing the events; this role is typically designated to a civil servant from the National Arts Council. After a brief hiatus last year, SIFA returns with the theme of POST-empires, a nod to the 50-year anniversary of Singapore’s independence. Ong will continue to organize the festival until 2017.
Edinburg International Festival – Edinburg, Scotland
Theater, dance, music, and opera performers from around the world met up in Scotland for the Edinburg International Festival from August 7th-31st. The organization describes the events, saying, “On a tremendous scale, Edinburgh becomes an international cultural epicentre for all the performing arts offering intense, personal and exciting experiences to those who come from Edinburgh, from Scotland and from around the world.” The festival has grown over its 68-year history, and for the first time this year, the opening ceremony was free of charge. The Harmonium Project kicked off the festival with a sound and light spectacle in which digital projections emulated the experience that singing has on the human mind and body. A number of different production companies participated, including video designers from the 2012 London Olympic Games, and the recent David Bowie Is exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Jamafest – Nairobi, Kenya
The second edition of the East African Community Arts and Culture Festival opened on August 2nd in Nairobi. The nickname “Jamafest” comes from the Kiswahili (Swahili) translation, Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival. Members of the five partner nations – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda – celebrated with the theme of unleashing the economic potential of cultural and creative industries in the EAC for the one-week festival. The platform seeks to unite regional identity through socio-cultural integration.
World Music Festival – Gwangju, South Korea
Musicians from 11 countries, including Argentina, China, Cuba, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, and South Korea, participated in a two-day World Music Festival on the 29th and 30th of August. Combining ethnic heritage with contemporary influence, the participating bands brought together individuals in the transcultural language of music. One such act was DuWangGang, blending the sounds of ancient China, central Asia, religious music, experimental songs, and contemporary rock. The event anticipates the opening of the Asian Culture Complex in Gwangju later this year.
Wassermusik: Mother India – Berlin, Germany
The Wassermusik Festival in Berlin honors the world-wide Indian diaspora with this year’s edition, titled ‘Mother India.’ From July 17th through August 8th, events took place outside of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The celebration revealed the vast reaches of Indian culture in film, music, and dance. Sitars and steel drums reflect a pairing of Indian and Caribbean sounds with the band Mungal Patasar, for example. The combination of Indian heritage with foreign influences allows for an ever-interesting fusion of cultures in the globalized world.
Think we missed something, or want to recommend upcoming soft power projects? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet it to @MeridianIntl.