Here is the latest edition from the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy’s Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup that features a compilation of unique cultural diplomacy initiatives from around the globe. This post highlights ten cultural diplomacy efforts from April:
Art, a Driving Force for Peace
The World Art and Culture Summit for Peace in Colombia opened on Monday, April 6th, with the participation of hundreds of artists and cultural groups aiming to contribute to peace through art. The summit, which ended April 12th, brought together over 400 national artists, as well as international artists from 37 different countries. Singers, writers, painters, actors, and other cultural producers gathered in the Colombian capital of Bogotá and discussed the role of arts in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The summit builds some great momentum for MCCD’s upcoming Community Engagement through the Mural Arts exchange in Cali, Colombia, with U.S. artist Augustina Droze, from May 26th through June 16th.
In the Spirit of Social Sculpture
When the Ebola epidemic took hold in West Africa, Mary Beth Heffernan, an artist based in Los Angeles, California, started seeing news images of health workers in alien-like Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE. The PPE suits, meant to keep any part of a worker’s body from coming in contact with a patient, often left nurses’ and doctors’ eyes just barely visible through goggles. Heffernan came up with The PPE Portrait Project to improve Ebola care, taking portraits of healthcare workers and putting their photos on their suits. Her creative approach helped make the dynamic, and treatment, less intimidating for patients.
Treasure Trove of Galleries and Museums: Brazil
The São Paulo International Art Fair is now the most distinguished art fair in Latin America, presenting top galleries from Brazil and the globe. Galerie Agnès Monplaisir is one of them, displaying artworks by international artists Olga de Amaral and Jim Amaral. During the fair’s four-day schedule from April 9th-12th, a number of programs to better enhance the visitors’ experience were organized, ranging from 12 artist talks, 9 book launches, and 3 meet-and-greet sessions with authors.
Snapchat “Life” Stories: What City is Next?
Over the last two months there have been quite a few “Life” Snapchat Stories that focus on a specific city. These stories present a day in a selected city – video and photos can only be uploaded by users in that city, but other Snapchat users can view the content. Snapchat, the popular photo-sharing service, is not limiting itself to just the United States. So far, it has featured “Life” stories from Paris, Oslo, Riyadh, Dubai, Toronto, Cape Town, Dublin, New Delhi, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Rio, Sydney, and London, with more to come. With over 100 million monthly users worldwide, this is a great way to combine social media with real-time glimpses from around the world.
China Time in South Africa
This year, South Africa hosted its 6th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Ministerial Conference. This event serves as the launch pad of Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and also provides the platform for the Year of China in South Africa 2015. South Africa has a long history of engagement with China, and Chinese culture – including cuisine, fireworks, and dance – is well regarded in the country. One of the aims of the Year of China in South Africa 2015 is to further expand on that awareness and appreciation, while introducing new forms of Chinese arts, culture, and heritage.
In Pursuit of Social Progress
Nearly 1,000 of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs, key thought leaders, and strategic partners gathered at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, to exchange ideas, solutions, and information for the Skoll World Forum, which was held April 15th-17th. The annual forum aims to acknowledge and highlight the role various artists play in the pursuit of human improvement. Recently, it has celebrated with singers Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox, Baaba Maal, Vusi Mahlasela, and KT Tunstall, violinist Miri Ben-Ari, and the Playing for Change Band on its stage. The Skoll World Forum focuses on the most relevant news, insights, and opportunities that accelerate entrepreneurial approaches and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social issues.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
The Himalayas are the world’s tallest mountain range, but even Everest cannot stop two Himalayan countries from working together to promote art and culture. On April 23rd, India and Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote cooperation between their two countries in art and culture. The agreement between Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, India, known as the Nepal-India Art Exchange Programme, paves the way for exchanges between delegations of cultural experts, artists, intellectuals, and arts administrators. In addition to these exchanges, NAFA and Lalit Kala Akademi will organize art exhibitions and publish and translate books on both countries’ fine arts.
Realism in Rawiya: Photographic Stories from the Middle East
Rawiya, the Middle East’s first all-female photo collective, was created in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings in the region. Rawiya, which means “she who tells a story,” includes women photographers from Beirut, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Jerusalem, Kuwait, and the UAE, among others. The group’s goal is to fight stereotypes about the region by providing a local lens on the social and political issues in the Middle East. Rawiya’s most recent international exhibition is currently on display through May at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford, United Kingdom.
If It Were My Home: Comparing Countries
When you hear about events happening in countries around the world, it can be hard to relate when you don’t know much about those places. Now, there’s an app to help people compare other countries to their home: If It Were My Home.com. The site’s creator, Andy Lintner, came up with the idea in 2010 after reading a newspaper article about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that showed the spill area over Manhattan. He compared it to his hometown, Detroit, and created a web app that let others compare the oil spill to their own cities. Later that year, Lintner created another web app to show how widespread flooding in Pakistan was. If It Were My Home lets people compare any country to their own home, and each week features a different country to learn more about.
Blossoming Friendships: National Cherry Blossom Festival
Every year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, celebrates the friendship between Japan and the United States. The District’s iconic cherry trees stem from a 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo’s mayor, Yukio Ozaki, to Washington, and three years later, the United States Government gifted flowering dogwood trees to Japan. Since the first festival in 1927, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has become a major event – with design and fitness classes, film screenings, art exhibitions, performances, panels, and a parade – that draws tourists from around the country and the world. This year, the festival took place from March 20th through April 12th, with peak blooms occurring April 11th-14th.