By Metin Parlak, Institute of Cultural Diplomacy.
How relevant is art as a form of cultural diplomacy?
A. I think art is crucial to cultural diplomacy as art is about life as we live it. For me Art is not just about high art that we see in museums and galleries, but about the cultural forms that you sane and keep you alive, that make you who you are and dictate your passions. So they really are at the centre of our identity and are also at the centre of our ability to coexist with other cultures and other people. So I think art has to be the engine of cultural diplomacy. Having said that, clearly economics is the engine of society so squaring that circle is very difficult as the needs of money and our everyday cultural needs are not necessarily things that meet.
How do you think art exchange can foster or encourage future multiculturalism?
A. I believe very strongly that art is essential to fostering multiculturalism. In fact I would contend that the more culturally educated people are the more cosmopolitan they tend to be. So the more we know about each other’s cultures the less we tend to fetishize and over value our own at the expense of others or identify with one single nation because we actually become part of all the cultures we’re passionate about. Actually I am about ancient Greek literature and culture and, whilst that doesn’t make me any less Turkish/Turkish Cypriot, it does give me a different perspective and infact I often find that when I’m dealing with Greek or Greek Cypriot people, I often know more about that culture than that particular individual might and it helps to throw people’s suppositions about what you’re supposed to be like.
What is your opinion on the role that cultural diplomacy plays in international relations and inter cultural relations?
A. Although I do think that governments and the UN do fund quite a lot of programs involving cultural diplomacy they also miss a trick because I think if more emphasis was given to cultural diplomacy, often at a grass roots, then it could really be transformed, in fact I felt like I was sitting and talking to an audience of people who could precisely bring that change about and I find it very frustrating that there isn’t more effort made. On an international level it can be further developed.
In your opinion how has the reception of your poetry around the world demonstrated the ability of culture to transcend boards and challenge the globalisation of borders?
A. That’s a question that makes me a little bit shy but certainly being a poet and being with other poets doing quite a lot of international festivals as well as educational activities has transformed me and brought me in contact with a lot of really rich cultures and also helped me understand connexions. For instance, I did some poetry readings in Azerbaijan, where they speak a kind of Turkish, but when they were reciting the old Turkish poets like Nizar mir, the connection I felt wwqith the culture, which I’d presumed was so distant was very magical and one thing I find amongst poets is that they do tend to really outward looking. I know that is a generalisation but it is an activity that people are drawn to as they are curious about the other and the different ways of saying and seeing things.