"Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."
- United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 27, Part 1.
The use of creative media (film, music, art, performance and dance) can often be a way to approach peace and reconciliation. Whether it be a way of expressing the feelings and emotions created by conflict, telling a person or community's story, a piece of public art which commands attention, or a community project bringing together affected and even warring participants, the arts can offer a creative, expressive and often non-political means to engage communities in projects of peace and reconciliation, giving people a chance to make their own contribution to the quest for peace.
The 4th International Conference on Peace and Reconciliation, held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and sponsored by Youngnak Presbyterian Church, Seoul, in November 2012, focused on the theme of Mediating Peace: Reconciliation through Art, Music & Film. The resources on this page are by no means exhaustive, but give an indication of the nature and number of peace and reconciliation projects in the arts.
We will be adding further resources and information to this page, so please keep checking back.
Film is a powerful medium through which to explore and negotiate the complexities of conflicts, and often the human side to issues of peace and reconciliation. Films on the subject of war, oppression and resistance cover a myriad of themes and perspectives. As filmmaking has evolved, so has the range of films on the theme of peace and reconciliation. From big-budget blockbusters to independent projects, and from star-vehicles to the use of local non-actors, the conflicts and crises around the world have elicited a multitude of creative projects tackling these complex, emotive, and often controversial issues.
Film camera: Taken at 3rd ICPR 2010, Seoul. Copyright Youngnak Church, Seoul, used with permission.
The films are categorised by conflict or theme, with a focus on the following contexts:
Artistic projects, whether they are individual creations or group projects, express religious identity, aspirations and ideals, and the ethos of the artist. Often more nuanced and personal than film, art also offers a way to convey personal beliefs, community, or cultural identity. Art can be political, as with the powerful murals created in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, denoting sectarian identities and zones; it can be a way of explicitly representing the personal religious beliefs of the artist; and it can be a shared, non-partisan space to create projects meaningful to a community identity which may be under threat or damaged through conflict.
Writing a message for the peace tree: Taken at 3rd ICPR 2010, Seoul. Copyright Youngnak Church, Seoul, used with permission.
Below are some art projects and organisations which highlight artistic work on the above themes.
Arts for All, a community arts project in Belfast aimed at promoting social cohesion, community development and positive change in a city which in the past has been divided by sectarianism, political and religious conflict, and deprivation.
Art in the Public Interest, a non-profit organisation which supports the public role art can play in supporting community development and cohesion. Art in the Public Interest represents other non-profit community arts organisations, such as Community Arts Network (CAN).
Art with a Mission, a project run by self-taught artist Nkunranga Emmanuel in Rwanda working with children and young people, many of whom were orphaned in the 1994 genocide, teaching them creative skills such as painting, offering a place to work together and a skill they may be able to benefit from in their working lives.
Asian Christian Art Association, the result of dialogue between Christian artists and theologians in Asia, the ACAA encourages Christian artists to explore their faith through art, supports individuals and groups working on indigenous art forms across Asia, and works with Churches in Christian communities in Asia.
Barefoot Artists Genocide Memorial Project, Rwanda. The joint project of Lily Yeh, founder of Barefoot Artists, and Jean Bosco Musana Rukirande, regionalco-ordinator of the Red Cross in Gisenyi, the Genocide Memorial Park encourages community reconciliation and healing through the large multi-dimensional art project.
Community Arts Partnership, another community project based in Belfast, offering an arena for artists, organisations, groups and schools to come together to create art to positively transform the local society.
In Place of War, a network of artists around the world who share their work and their efforts to replace war and conflict in their environment with public art.
Israeli centre for Digital Art, a platform for the production and critical discussion of contemporary art in Israel. Encouraging public engagement, and often challenging state policies, the centre for Digital Art promotes the role of art in contemporary society and collaborates with other organisations and individuals in the Middle East and the Balkans to explore how art can break down social barriers.
Jyoti Art Ashram, located in North Bangalore and run by artist Jyoti Sahi and his family, the Art Ashram shares the artistic techniques of the Sahi family with visiting groups, encouraging artistic expressions of spirituality, exemplified by Jyoti Sahi's own work representing his religious and cultural identity.
Kids' Guernica Project, an international childrens' art project, mimicking Picasso's movable painting which protested against the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. The Kids' Guernica project includes projects all over the world.
Sarajevo Roses, a project which took place after the 1992 siege of Sarajevo, during which the city's streets were scarred by grenade damage. The rose shaped marks in the ground were filled with red resin, creating small artistic memorials across the city, commemorating Bosnia-Herzegovina's fight for independence from the Yugoslav Republic.
Transcend: Art and Peace Network, the artistic branch of the Transcend organisation, T:AP is a network dedicated to the study and support of art and creativity as peacemaking tools.
Musical projects, like artistic ones, range from grassroots organisations to high-profile figures; the music either involves communities to engage them in a multicultural environment, an educational or recreational project, or in a community venture which breaks down social, cultural or religious barriers, or the musical project can be utilised to raise money and awareness of social issues, to bring about peace and reconciliation through education and outside support. Below are some examples from around the world of music projects which tackle issues from global health and poverty crises to conflict zones, using high-profile figures and local communities.
All for Peace Radio, a jointly run Israeli-Palestinian radio station, broadcasting from Jerusalem in Hebrew, Arabic and English. This not-for-profit station plays music and talk programmes, encouraging exposure of each others' stories, perspectives and artists, and an emphasis on shared interests and cultural similarities.
Fundacion Mi Sangre (My Blood Foundation), a foundation established by singer/songwriter Juan Esteban Aristizábal, or Juanes, in his native Colombia. Using music, art and culture, Juanes and his foundation work with children, adolescents and youths around Colombia to provide therapy and education to steer them away from the armed conflict in the country, and to encourage new generation of peacemakers.
Intermusic Center, a network of centres led by leading academic and musical figures whose work explores the role music can play in overcoming conflict and barriers such as racism.
Live Aid and Live 8, the projects started in response to the Ethiopian famine, the 1984 Band Aid recording and the 1985 Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia. Twenty years after Live Aid, in 2005, Live 8 took place: 10 concerts taking place together across the G8 states and South Africa. Timed to precede the G8 summit, the Live 8 benefit project built on the initial notion of using high-profile musicians to fundraise for a localised famine, to using an international group of high-profile musicians to lend their voices to lobby the G8 states to tackle global poverty by pledging increased international aid.
Mercury Phoenix Trust, established in 1992 following the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991, MPT's aims are to use the fame and legacy of Queen music to fundraise and educate for AIDS treatment, prevention and management around the world. With projects in 25 countries and frequent musical fundraising ventures, the Trust challenges ignorance, discrimination and stigma of HIV/AIDS, while working in the countries most affected by the pandemic, such as South Africa, where the Trust worked closely with Nelson Mandela's own HIV/AIDS work on a musical concert called 46664, Mandela's prison number and charity.
Military Wives Choir, recognising the emotional pressures on armed forces wives and families whose partners are involved in military action around the world, the Military Wives Choir offers a support structure and musical pastime for these women. Over 60 choirs established at bases in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands provide a way to support British troops, and the families who support them.
Music4Peace Foundation, beginning with a single founder, Tobias Huber, Music4Peace is an expanding network of partner organisations and high-profile figures, who support music events and cultural peace projects such as the United Nation's 'No Excuse Concert' in New York in 2004, and attending Asia's largest World Performing Arts Festival in Pakistan. Music4Peace is involved with cultural projects, events, concerts, festivals, documentaries and educational programmes as well as supporting charity organizations and NGO's around the world.
Musicians without Borders UK, and Musicians without Borders International, started in the Netherlands in response to the Kosovan war. MWB now works in several locations across the world including the UK, USA, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East, to reduce the stressful effects of war. The music charity connects people across cultural, political and religious borders for peace and positive change through embracing different musical traditions and genres, and establishing community projects which will have a lasting impact.
The Nonviolence Project, the NVP foundation, launched in 1993 in Switzerland, is a not-for-profit project aimed at non-violence and peace education, and promoting non-violent conflict resolution among young people. The logo of the project, the knotted gun, was created in tribute to John Lennon and his ethos of non-violence promoted through music, following his death in 1980. Replicas of the knotted gun sculpture are now placed all over the world, with one of the artist's originals displayed outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York, their chosen symbol of peace and non-violence.
Omagh Community Youth Choir, formed in 1998 by local music student Daryl Simpson and musicians and youth leaders in the area following the Omagh bombing. The choir aspired to bring youths from different backgrounds together and show their community that they were working positively together for peace and reconciliation. Since their formation the choir have performed across Ireland and the UK and internationally, including at Ground Zero in New York.
Peace and Prosperity Trust, offers a platform to support talented young Middle Eastern and Western musical artists, and to create a cultural fusion and exchange of music, community, and heritage in order to foster harmony and reconciliation. The Trust aims to promote the talent of young musicians and the cultural fusion of their musical traditions, support charitable work in the Middle East, and develop ambassadors for the work and the ethos of the Trust.
Peace Child International, have a long history of various international projects, all with a common purpose of empowering youth. In 2013, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of The Green Cross, Peace Child International has formed an international cast of young performers who will be a part of Peace Child: The Musical in September.
Playing for Change, inspired by the belief that music has the power to break down barriers, a group of musicians set up a mobile recording studio and travelled with it, creating an environment for musicians in which they could create their music freely and that placed no barriers between them and those who would hear their music. Working with Concord Music Group, Playing for Change aspires to giving the music it produces the widest possible global audience.
Pontanima Choir, formed in Sarajevo following the long siege of the city, by Bosian Franciscan Priest Father Ivo Markovic, the Pontanima (soul bridge) Choir is made up of Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Jewish and non-religious singers who perform music from each others' cultures. Initially travelling around Bosnia-Herzegovina, bringing their musical diversity to the different communities trying to overcome war, the Pontanima Choir has played all over FYR and Europe and also in the United States.
Project Peace on Earth, a Los Angeles-based organisation who promoted a worldwide telecast concert of high-profile musicians from around the world performing inspiring and sacred music from different venues around the world including from the host venue, Manger Square, Bethlehem, on Christmas Eve 2012.
Rwanda Youth Music, a project of Musicians without Borders, supported by the Edward Starr Charitable Trust, the project builds local capacity to strengthen Rwandan cultural identity by training HIV+ Rwandan youth leaders in Kigali to incorporate community music methods in on-going weekly support programs for more than 400 HIV positive children and their families in Kigali. The project builds youth leaders' local capacity in using music and culture as a tool for social change, community building, reconciliation and healing; promotes and supports local artists who use Rwandan music culture to help and heal communities and address the trauma of the genocide and conflict; strengthens social bonds between HIV infected children and their families through music; and promotes knowledge of human rights, gender equality and nonviolence.
Sao Tome Philharmonic Orchestra (World Bank), an orchestra located in northern Brazil in which half of the musicians are young women and girls. Part of World Bank's campaign to support and enable gender equality, the orchestra received funding for a community / rehearsal centre, instruments and tuition, providing Sao Tome's youth, particularly girls with a hobby, a skill, and potentially a subject they can go on to study or work with in the future.
Search for Common Ground Music, Search for Common Ground was founded in 1982, and works to transform the way the world deals with conflict, away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving. Employing media initiatives and working with local partners in government and civil society, SFCG produces documentaries and films, often using musicians from around the world to produce original music to accompany them.
South Africa National Youth Orchestra Foundation, a long-running foundation which brings South African youth, many from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, together to learn, train, and to perform across South Africa and overseas through tours and workshops.