Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup (January edition)

This Soft Power post covers cultural diplomacy events from January.


Happy 2016! While you might have already broken your New Year’s resolution, we are starting off fresh with a new edition of Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup to show you what is going on in arts and culture around the world. The New Year may only be a few weeks old, but we can already look back at a great amount of events and festivals celebrating and promoting international exchange through film, food, sports, and dance.

Tromsø International Film Festival –  Tromsø, Norway

On the small Norwegian Island of Tromsø, January 18-24 marked the dates of the 26th TIFF Awards. With around 50,000 tickets sold, TIFF is one of Norway’s biggest film festivals, yet it takes place amongst a breathtaking scenery of mountains. Since TIFF is held during the period of polar nights, visitors can even enjoy movies in an outdoor cinema during the long and dark winter days (as shown in the picture to the right). This year’s main prize, the AURORA, went to the American performance artist Laurie Anderson and her film, Heart of a Dog. Among a great number of international participants, films such as the thought-provoking The Academy of Muses by the Spanish Jose Luis Guerin, and Democrats, a Zimbabwean political story by Camilla Nielsson (USA), won distinguished awards. Jury members included critics and film-enthusiasts from India, Ireland, and England.


Australian Open – Melbourne, Australia

Cultural diplomacy does not just happen in the arts or in politics. In the world of sports, the 104th Australian Open was January’s sports diplomacy highlight, taking place from January 18 to 31. With around 50 nations represented, over 700 professional players from Brazil, Britain, China, Germany, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States battled on the court for the championship. Bringing the world together through sports, the tournaments are broadcast globally and contribute significantly to the enhancement and understanding of contemporary Australia beyond the stereotypical laid-back lifestyle and the hot Outback. With this, the Australian Open attracts thousands of international visitors to the city of Melbourne, where restaurants, music festivals, museums and galleries, parks, and social events promote intercultural exchange in a fun way.


Madrid Fusion – Madrid, Spain

What better and easier way to experience another culture than to try its cuisine? Once again, Madrid Fusion, an international gastronomy summit, came to a close at the end of January. Chefs from Spain, Mexico, Korea, and the Dominican Republic, among other countries, held workshops on international cooking, talked mouthwatering truffles, sauces, pastries, tapas, cheeses, breads, and cocktails, and brought the world together by sharing their creations with visitors. Beyond culinary experts, everyone can relate to good food, and the search for it can be an international adventure. After all, the message Madrid Fusion sends goes beyond the edible – it is about culture, heritage, and values. This includes a commitment to supporting the local and global community, providing good food for everyone, and improving living conditions for farmers and suppliers worldwide.



Este Arte – Punte del Este, Uruguay

Este Arte is an international fair for contemporary art in Punta del Este, Uruguay, aiming to offer art of historical avant-garde character and modern style. Festival organizers sought to create a space for artists, collectors, critics, and curators to exchange ideas while promoting culture and trade in South America and beyond. Featuring both commercial and institutional collections, exhibitors arrived from all over the world, including Chile, China, Cuba, France, Italy, and the UK. Showcasing a wide range of international sculptors, painters, and installation artists, Este Arte focuses mainly on connecting the world with South American culture and showcasing its geniuses to the world, establishing itself as an equal and important competitor in the contemporary global art scene.


ANCER 2016 – Conference – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Between January 14 and 16, Phnom Penh in Cambodia became a hub for arts managers, cultural leaders, cultural researchers, and policymakers. The Asia Pacific Network for Cultural Education and Research (ANCER) Conference, in collaboration with Cambodian Living Arts, the Institut Francais du Cambodge, and the LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, hosted a conference titled “Vitality and Viability: Arts Ecosystems in Asia.” Over 100 delegates from 20 countries came together to better understand the unique factors affecting the Asia Pacific region. Officially supported by the European Union, the conference emphasized issues of interest to nations worldwide. Having previously been granted a Global Vision Award, Cambodian Living Arts works closely with the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to support Cambodian artists, students, and teachers connect their culture to the world.


Panoptikum. Theater for Children from Bavaria and Europe – Nuremberg, Germany

In the historic town of Nuremberg, Germany, the company Theater Mummpitz hosted a biannual festival of children’s theater from European countries, as well as from the province of Bavaria. The Panoptikum festival – which had nearly 5,000 visitors of all ages, 140 theater professionals and event organizers, and 40 plays – seeks to bring together experts and enthusiasts in a region that is famous for its fairy tales, myths, and fables. This year, participants from Canada, China, and Israel discussed the diverse spectrum of children’s and youth theaters, and plays from Belgium, Denmark, Spain, and Switzerland contributed to a successful cultural understanding and insight in a rather unusual way.



PuSh International Performing Arts Festival – Vancouver, Canada

One of Vancouver’s signature events, PuSh is a three-week-long performing arts event that presents groundbreaking works on a live stage. Intended to expand the views of local artists and audiences, the festival unites a range of national and international figures from various genre-bending, stimulating, and creative backgrounds. Through providing a meeting place for different minds, the organizers hope to foster new global artistic partnerships that bring forth new works. Aspiring to be highly valued as a catalyst for cultural and community development, PuSh engages and enriches audiences through active exchange and dialogue. In venues across Vancouver, main stage performers gathered from Australia, Denmark, England, France, and Lebanon to present theater, music, dance, and small-scale experimental shows. Throughout the event, the “PuSh Assembly” functions as a series of talks and workshops, discussing ideas of international artists, combined on one stage.


Black Dance Rising – Denver, Colorado

Hosted by the International Association of Blacks in Dance, the 28th Black Dance Rising Conference and Festival again provided a unique opportunity to gather black dance professionals from the United States and around the world. Participants included agents, artistic directors, teachers, artists, and choreographers. A platform to network and exchange ideas, the conference also featured performances by dance companies from around the world. Lectures focusing on contemporary Afro-Caribbean, indigenous aboriginal, and African dance opened the discussion to connect various African cultures around the world.