The Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy’s Soft Power: The Monthly Roundup covers interesting and unique events that emphasize global efforts for diplomacy through the arts, fashion, food, and more.
Take a look at seven projects that intrigued us this past September:
Connecting Through Fashion
As this year’s fashion weeks around the world came to a close, many of us were left considering personal style and our own identities as we emptied our wallets shopping online. Now you can add Sheila Heti’s new book,Women in Clothes, to your cart. The book, which hit shelves on New York Fashion Week’s opening day, examines the various attitudes of women of different cultures, ages, levels of celebrity, and histories towards the role of clothing in their lives. The 1,000 or so participants responded to thought-provoking questions such as, “What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?” These questions, meant to free clothing from the confining term of “fashion,” allowed people to instead explore it through the lenses of culture and memory. This relationship between culture, heritage, and clothing has previously been explored by MCCD in Style in Silk: Tradition and Innovation in Chinese Fashion, which included a fashion show of traditional and contemporary designs during the 2013 Lunar New Year Celebration.
Turkish Cultural Heritage Month
Organized by the American Turkish Association of Washington D.C. (ATA-DC), the 3rd Annual Turkish Cultural Heritage Month was celebrated this September with culinary events, a fashion show, Turkish movie screenings, shared folktales, and the 12th Annual Turkish Festival. As well as showcasing Turkish culture, the festivities focused on the connections between the Turkish and the American peoples. During last year’s festival, five emerging jazz musicians from Ankara performed on stage as a part of the U.S.-Turkish Jazz Exchange hosted by Meridian International Center. This year, one documentary shown, Istanbul Unveiled, follows an American with relatives in Istanbul as she discovers the city. The festival, which took place Sunday, September 28th, brought Turkish culture to the streets of D.C. with fortune telling, traditional Turkish musical and dance performances, and a Turkish bazaar.
Tell a Story
The Lisbon-based traveling book truck, Tell a Story, is dedicated to spreading the literary treasures of Portugal to foreign tourists visiting the capital city. As its website states, “Sometimes we are around the corner, other times at the end of the road.” The nomadic bookstore adventure began for co-founders Francisco Antolin, Domingos Cruz, and Joao Correia Pereira last year in a vintage 1975 Renault Estafette. With a mission to spread their country’s rich culture to travelers, they offer translations of iconic Portuguese literature and up-and-coming authors. They’re currently in the process of acquiring a second van to take their show beyond Portugal’s borders and into the rest of Europe. After all, says Antolin, “Culture has no borders.”
Global Citizen Festival and #2030now
Organized by the Global Poverty Project, which hopes to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, the 2014 Global Citizen Festival promoted social action through star-powered musical performances and speakers in Central Park on September 27th. The musical talents of Jay Z, Carrie Underwood, No Doubt, The Roots, and others were intermixed with speeches from international political leaders, including World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Festival took place less than a week after the Social Good Summit, which explored the impact of social media and open dialogues on worldwide social improvement using #2030now. The two-day Summit was also live-streamed in seven languages.
Art All Night: Nuit Blanche D.C.
D.C.’s fourth annual Art All Night, based on the Paris phenomenon Nuit Blanche, took place on the last Saturday of September, from 7pm to 3am. Produced by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH), this year the festival expanded to include five D.C. neighborhoods, each showcasing an eclectic mix of artistic programming. By “re-imagin[ing] public and private space” the event highlighted the cultural diversity of the U.S. capital through exposure to local and international artists. The festival included various types of events ranging from Latin jazz to Nigerian and Ghanaian music, street art installations to open galleries, as well as capoeira performances, theater productions, and DJs.
Djerbahood: International Street Art
In his latest project, gallerist Mehdi Ben Cheikh invited more than 150 artists from 30 countries to paint the walls of a small village on Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, from June through early September. The resulting project, Djerbahood, aims to create a cultural crossroads that involves the local community and the rest of the world as streets are transformed into canvases. A shopkeeper on the island, Abdel Kader, says that as he stops to talk to artists and visitors from other countries, the project has allowed him to “meet people from all over the world, to travel, and best of all, to open [his] mind.”
Foodie Diplomacy: International Chocolate Day
Are you feeling bittersweet that International Chocolate Day is over? If you missed your chance on September 13th, you can embark on your own international chocolate tour using The Culturist’s Travel Guide for Chocolate Lovers. Perhaps you will follow the rich journey of the humble cacao bean, beginning in the heart of Mesoamerica, to share a traditional, bitter bowl of hot chocolate, before traveling to Europe for some decadent dining and schmoozing opportunities at places such as the Salon du Chocolat in France or aboard Switzerland’s Chocolate Train. For the more adventurous and hands-on cocoa-connoisseurs, there are 56 varieties of the sweet treat at Tokyo’s 100% Chocolate Café, and chocolate sculpting classes at the Savour School in Melbourne, Australia. It might be another year until the next chocolate holiday, but truly passionate chocolate diplomats will tell you that every day is Chocolate Day.