This is the seventh installment of the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy’s Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup, a compilation of unique cultural diplomacy initiatives from around the globe.
We’re excited to share with you these seven cultural diplomacy efforts from the past month:
1. Latin America: A Peak into Contemporary Art
Zona MACO – Latin America’s most important contemporary art fair – brought collectors, specialists, and galleries from every part of the world together in Mexico City from February 3rd-7th. Founded by Zélika García in 2002, Zona Maco has established itself as one of the most notable platforms for selling, displaying, and promoting international contemporary art in the region. Today, this celebration is the epicenter of contemporary art, diverse museums, and public and private cultural institutions.
2. Euphrat Museum: Mooncakes, Churros, and Cherry Pie
Mooncakes, Churros, and Cherry Pie explores the connections between food, migration, and culture. Themes include food as identity, the U.S. food industry, migrant/immigrant labor, food traditions, and memories. This annual community program at the Euphrat Museum in California is offered in conjunction with Silicon Valley Reads 2015 and features three books with the theme Home & Homeland: The Immigrant Experience, including Stealing Buddhas Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen; We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo; and The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez, along with sculpture, photography, paintings, textiles, and more. Read the San Jose Mercury News review of the show.
3. Costumes, Circuses, and Theatres
The Venice Carnival took place during the ten days leading up to Shrove Tuesday, from January 31st – February 17th. A pre-Lent (which means “farewell to meat”) festival, the Venice Carnival is celebrated throughout Italy. It is organized by the Venice tourist board and is a wonderful open-air festival where everyone can join in. Fantastic costumes are displayed in St. Mark’s Square, a perfect backdrop for amazing photographs. The carnival allows visitors from all over the world to learn about the history and culture of the celebrations in the past, and how it is celebrated today in the city of Venice.
4. African Festival: Combining Film with Arts and Crafts
Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) organizers believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles. Established in 1992, PAFF-LA has showcased over 150 films and over 100 fine artists and unique craft persons from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, South America, Europe, the South Pacific, and Canada to highlight the diversity of people of African descent. This year, PAFF-LA ran from February 5th-16th and featured films such as Triangle directed by Teshome and The Man in 3B directed by Trey Haley.
5. Diversity is Beauty
Mihaela Noroc, a 29-year- old photographer from Bucharest, Romania, loves to travel and has visited over 60 countries with his backpack and camera. He enjoys meeting diverse people, getting to know them beyond the surface, discovering their sincere and authentic side, and photographing it. Over the last few years, Noroc has worked on The Atlas of Beauty. To him, diversity is beauty, and beauty means keeping one’s origins and one’s culture alive. Though Atlas of Beauty launched in February, Noroc’s ultimate goal is to continue the project and to document beauty in every country, making his series an inspiration for all women around the world.
6. Bringing American Jazz to Tehran
On February 20th, the audience in Tehran’s Vahdat concert hall went wild for Bob Belden. A fun-loving New York saxophonist, arranger, composer, bandleader, and producer, Belden took part in a 4-day concert tour, the first by an American musician in Iran since 1979. Officials from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance enjoyed renditions of tunes by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, along with Mr. Belden’s own compositions. Mehdi Faridzadeh, a former cultural ambassador from Iran who now resides in the United States, and Search for Common Ground, an American nonprofit organization that aims to promote ties between the two countries, helped arrange Mr. Belden and his band’s trip to Iran, where they received rock-star treatment.
7. Fresh Off the Boat: Asian Americans take it to cable
The first American television situation comedy starring an Asian American family premiered on February 10th on ABC. The series, which stars Randall Park, Constance Wu, Ian Chen, Hudson Yang, and Forrest Wheeler, has the potential to increase the visibility and accuracy of Asian Americans in arts and entertainment. Fresh Off the Boat is inspired by the life of chef and food personality Eddie Huang and is based on his book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, which follows the course of Huang’s Taiwanese family, their struggles with culture clash, embracing the “American Dream”, and assimilating into their new community.