By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
On the 28th of July 2013 on the top of Velká Javořina, in the border region of the Czech and Slovak Republic, hundreds of citizens from both sides of the border met during the traditional festival of brotherhood and unity. This annual event reminds each nation of their common history where two increasingly interconnected nations gradually established a peaceful path to full independence over the last century. However, there still remains a certain bond and sense of togetherness between them which can be seen in similarities in culture and lifestyle.
Velká Javořina (970 m) is not only the highest point of the Bílé Karpaty, but also the oldest protected area of this mountain range. The mountain, which is steeped in legends traditionally chanted about in Slovak and Moravian songs, became a landmark meeting place for the Moravians and Slovaks in the 19th century. Then, it was a meeting place for not only for Slovak and Moravian students, teachers, priests and artists but also for ordinary people. Javořina was a gathering place for the building of friendships between Moravians and Slovaks, a space for manifestations, a place of joint excursions and a place for cheerful socials. This tradition was revived in 1990. Now, a new meeting, entitled “Celebration of Czechs and Slovaks Brotherhood, Javořina”, has been created. The Czech – Moravian – Slovak memorial, a work of sculptor Otmar Oliva, symbolizes that despite the current and future transformations of Europe, people in the Moravian-Slovak border remain close. The Javořina festivities are the culmination of a project of “Czech and Slovak reciprocity”. Throughtout the year there are numerous cultural and tourist events. Festival organizers have one common goal; to maintain the special relationship between the people and to increase the quality of life of people from both sides of the border.(1)
This year’s celebrations were attended by many folk ensembles, brass bands and choirs from the border region. There was a varied program of authentic fair stalls and traditional activities taking place in the natural amphitheater for the hundreds of visitors and well-known personalities from the media and politics who attended the aevent. Soloists and groups of different genres performed. Their art is an example of the rich folk traditions and extraordinary cultural and social affinities of the two nations. There were also competitions for children. The day before, a meeting of cyclists from the Czech and Slovak Republic, called the ‘Javorina Tour 2013’, was held on the top of the Velká Javořina.(2)
Czechs and Slovaks actually lived in one state from the times of the Hapsburg monarchy. The first independent state of Czechs and Slovaks was created in 1918. After seventy years of the existence of one united state, the Czechoslovak Republic broke into two on January 1st 1993 and became the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. Both nations had a chance to start building their own sovereign states. Mutual relations remained, and always have been, fair and good. Regular meetings between Heads of States are conducted and there is constant communication between both cultural, educational and scientific spheres. The Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union and NATO. Slovakia has ceased to be a “younger brother” and relations between the two nations”were given the standard level of relations between two neighboring countries, which between them have no problems and, by contrast, have much in common in the past.” (3)
Even after 20 years, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia is considered by Slovak former Prime Minister Vladimir Mečiar and by a former president of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus as a necessary step which helped everyone.
Mečiar said that the decision of the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was the right move, and if the republic did not divide in 1993, Slovakia would now be considered as insignificant European region. (4)
Václav Klaus justified the political decisions that “… our priority was to preserve the friendship and good relations between Czechs and Slovaks and preserve our future cooperation. We have stood the test because we approached each other with respect and a desire to understand one another. We have stood the test because we wanted success not just for us, but for the other side as well.”
Today the President for Czech-Slovak Relations has heralded the relationship between the two nations as great; unburdened by historical burdens and feelings of injustice or negative sentiments. “I believe that the Czechs and Slovaks remain true brothers to each other,” he said.(5)
Former Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that “the Slovaks are for Czechs the closest, truly fraternal nation; the nation on which we always rely, even at an international level, we know that we can rely on him.” It is difficult to find in Europe two nations with such friendly relations.(6)
by Vendula Marešová, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
“To reorder space one needs to redefine space. For this kind of artistic intervention I use the term “applied art”, which means art applied in public context and space. This is to describe an artistic strategy focusing problems in society to then intervene, interact and transcend into another construction of reality. I create tools to create this new reality in other people’s minds.” Michael Kurzwelly
Located on the border between Poland and Germany, only 80 km away from Berlin, there is a virtual town called Słubfurt. Słubfurt is a city which ignores state boundaries – it consists of two parts Słub (Polish town Słubice) and Furt (German Frankfurt an der Oder) which used to be one urban unity connected by a bridge 70 years ago until the Polish border moved westwards to the Oder-Neisse line.
The aim of artist Michael Kurzwelly, who initiated this cultural project, was to create a new incentive for this space with a playful and fantastical outcome. It’s a reaction to the prejudices of Poles towards Germans and of Germans towards Poles, and deals with the identity crisis that exists there. It opens both of the shores of the river Oder to each other in order to improve neighbor relations, and tries to ease communication between the municipality of Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice.
Due to the border movement and the development of the Second World War, both on the Polish and German side of the River Oder, the majority of original inhabitants fled and the residents who live there now lack a historical connection to the place and therefore do not have such an intense relationship with it. The Poles have had to deal with what happened to them during the Second World War and some of them still have difficulties communicating with Germans. On the second shore, Frankfurt (Oder) used to be part of the German Democratic Republic with its controversial history and the secret police Stasi who used to have many conspiratorial flats there. Since the unification of Germany, Germans have been accused of looking down on Poles. There are still some historical grievances among the older generations living in Frankfurt and Słubice; the reasons for them are related to Nazism and the expulsion of Germans etc., and this causes mutual mistrust. Despite this, many students and new foreigners are coming to Słubfurt and are slowly starting to change this, with thanks also to the European University of Viadrina and Collegium Polonicum which are located there.
Although Słubfurt city doesn’t exist on maps, it has its own city emblem, a half-real Słubfurt citizenship, and since 2009 elections to the Parliament of Słubfurt have even been taking place there. Occasionally some of the inhabitants speak the Słubfurt language (a mixture of German and Polish with a few special words), and various events are organized, for example, football matches between Słubfurt and other towns, and the Słubfurter Oderfest.
The ingenuity of the Słubfurt project is sometimes surprising. Michael Kurzwelly has invited his artist friends to cooperate with him and realize their own artistic projects there. An example of such public intervention is ‘Trial-Living in Słubfurt’ from 2004 by Christian Hasucha – a loggia placed on the Square of Heroes in Słubice, directed westward with a view of the Monument against Fascism. Every inhabitant of Furt was invited to decorate it according to their own taste and spend a few hours at the loggia, reading newspapers or grilling there with friends, gaining a sense of the lifestyle in the second part of Słubfurt.
Additionally, the Słubfurt city doesn’t exist only on its own, but it is a part of another virtual place – a country Nowa Amerika, which is situated along the river Oder and Neisse on the German-Polish border. Nowa Amerika connects both Polish and German area, although in this state the German-Polish border doesn’t exist anymore.
The phenomenon of Słubfurt became partly a tourist attraction and there is now a tourist information center in Słubfurt and a city guide of Słubfurt has been published. In addition, Michael Kurzwelly regularly organizes guided tours around both Słubfurt and Nowa Amerika.
The Citizens’ Association Słubfurt was established in 1999 and has developed itself significantly since then, coinciding with Poland joining the EU in 2004 and being admitted to the Schengen area in 2007. Three years later, the Słubfurt media library was established to serve as a cultural exchange for the region, where the citizens can share their life stories relating to essential themes of identity, to which the Słubfurt city is bound.
Although there are also opponents of the Słubfurt project, it is undeniable that the richness of cultural life in the region has increased immensely over the past years thanks to this project.
Recommended: Michael Kurzwelly’s promo video to the ‘new’ city of Slubfurt ‘Visiting Slubfurt’
By Cynthia P. Schneider, Cultural Diplomacy Expert; Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Netherlands.
The revival of Cambodia’s rich and unique cultural heritage has fueled the country’s impressive recovery from the Khmer Rouge’s genocide of 1975-79. This message rang unmistakably true as the Season of Cambodia (SOC) has dazzled New York audiences in museums, universities, galleries, and performing arts centers over the past month. Both the U.S. and the Cambodian governments stand to learn from this game-changing lesson for post-conflict development strategy, but neither government seems to have noticed.
The 125 Cambodian artists supported and hosted by over 30 New York institutions have revealed the near miraculous preservation of the venerated arts of shadow puppetry and Cambodian classical ballet, as well as the dynamic new visions in dance, visual arts, and film of the artists from Cambodia’s youthful majority (70 percent under age 30).
To understand the significance of creative expression and cultural heritage in rebuilding Cambodia, you have first to understand the utter devastation wreaked by the Khmer Rouge during their reign of terror.
Nearly a third of the population, between 1.7 and 2.5 million out of a total population of 8 million, was killed between 1975-79. The dictator Pol Pot, himself with a degree from the Sorbonne, targeted anyone with an education. Ninety per cent of artists and intellectuals were murdered.
The U.S. opened the door to Pol Pot and his genocidal regime. America supported General Lon Nol over the more popular King Sihanouk, but it was the massive US bombing campaign, with more ordinance than the total dropped by the Allies in World War II, that led Cambodians to see the Khmer Rouge as their salvation. (The analogy to the drone campaign radicalizing Pakistan has beenmade.)
Greeted as liberators when they entered Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge immediately launched their brutal campaign. They divided families and outlawed familial love, moved everyone into the countryside, eliminated all cultural traditions and creative expression, and made the entire population work grueling 18-hour days on a subsistence diet.
Arn Chorn-Pond — musician, Cambodian genocide survivor, former child soldier, and founder ofCambodian Living Arts, the organization behind the Season of Cambodia — recognized the essential role of reviving culture in rebuilding the country. In returning masters of music, dance, and puppetry to their rightful place in society, Chorn-Pond and the other co-founders of Cambodian Living Arts helped restore identity, pride, and resilience to the Cambodian people.
The Khmer Rouge targeted artists, Chorn-Pond explains, because “they expressed who they were as human beings.” While brutal regimes like the Khmer Rouge or the Taliban recognize the threat that cultural identity and expression pose to their totalitarian control — think of the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas or of the libraries in Timbuktu — the United States rarely prioritizes culture in post-conflict situations. (Afghanistan, where the U.S. successfully has supported culture andmedia, is an exception). No USAID funds for Cambodia have gone to culture.
The Season of Cambodia shows that recovery from trauma and conflict requires more than food and security. The soul of a country must also be nourished. The shell-shocked Cambodian survivors had to move beyond the genocide, and develop the strength to rebuild their country.
The story behind Lida Chan’s documentary Red Wedding, screened in the SOC’s Film Festival illustrates how the process of filmmaking as well as the end product can heal past pain, empower Cambodians to chart their future, and bridge the generation gap between survivors of the Khmer Rouge and today’s youth.
Chan’s film chronicles 48-year-old Sochan Pen’s determined search for the man who forced her, at age 16, to “marry” him. Pen escaped, but not until after her Khmer Rouge “husband” had raped and beaten her.
The process of sharing her story with the young filmmaker empowered Sochan Pen to testify against her “husband” at the Cambodia Tribunal, and to travel the country, telling her story, empowering other forced “brides” to speak up with her example.
Trained by Cambodia’s most renowned filmmaker Rithy Panh in his Bophana Center, Lida Chan and her experience affirm Panh’s belief that “Cambodians are learning to tell their own story, something that never has happened before.”
For his critical work preserving Cambodia’s cinematic past, and teaching future generations, Rithy Panh receives little support from the Cambodian or U.S. government.
To date, the Cambodian government has not made support for the arts a priority. Imagine what a fund built from a small tax added to Angkor Wat ticket prices could do to unleash the creative and economic potential of Cambodia’s youthful population.
The breakaway success of Artisans Angkor shows that investments in culture also can reap financial rewards. Led by Phloeun Prim, the charismatic architect of the Season of Cambodia, Artisans Angkor in a decade evolved from a modest NGO to a business with tens of millions of dollars in revenue, and over one thousand employees.
The Season of Cambodia offers the vision of a creative, dynamic, country, with a distinctive past and a promising future, a country that, to quote Festival architect Phloeun Prim, “has made arts and culture its international signature, not just the killing fields”. That dramatic transformation should persuade both the American and Cambodian governments of the importance of supporting the cultural sector in rebuilding this and other post-conflict societies.
First published May 9, 2013 on USC’s CPD Blog
Article also available here
Follow Cynthia P. Schneider on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Schneidercp
The Arts as Cultural Diplomacy Conference 2012 explored how the arts can be used to change theory into practice and express, create and improve social awareness and diplomatic relations. The arts include a variety of mediums through which emotions and culture can be expressed: music, art, literature and sports, to name only a few. The program examined how the arts can be used within the field of cultural diplomacy to initiate intercultural dialogue and cooperation through movement, thought and active expression.
During the Conference, several participants presented projects and thesis developping their ideeas regarding how arts can play an important role in fostering peace and contribuating to strenghten international cooperation nowadays.
One of those participants is Leanne Hoogwaerts. Her paper, called “What role do museums and art institutions play in international relations today and specifically in the development of what Joseph Nye called “soft power”? “, focuses on explaining how museums and art institutions have developed to embody their role in soft power and how they can play educational roles in society by providing platforms for discussion.
The paper can be fully read here
On April 26th, 2013 ICD Staff, Interns, and MA Students were able to attend a concert and discussion session with William Harvey, an American violinist and Director & Founder of the NGO “Cultures in Harmony,” who is currently working at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music as a conductor of the Afghanistan Youth Orchestra. Alongside Mr. Harvey, MA student Sercan Erbas, who is of Turkish background, played the ney, an end-blown flute that figures predominantly in Middle Eastern music. The ney has been played consistently for 4,500 – 5,000 years, making it the oldest musical instrument still in use.
The performance session began with a brief introduction by Mr. Harvey to the logistics of such a meeting between Western music, in the form of the violin, and Middle Eastern music, in the form of the ney. Mr. Harvey’s organization, Cultures in Harmony, was founded in 2005 in order to forge connections across cultural and national barriers through the medium of music. Cultures in Harmony organizes collaborative projects fostering lasting relationships between American musicians from top US conservatories and musicians from various other parts of the world. Through the universal language of music, these projects encourage cross-cultural dialogue and improve relations between the US and the rest of the world. In this sense, Mr. Harvey is accustomed to bridging the gap between the music of western compositions and musicians and that of other musicians from cultures, especially those in the Middle East.On April 26th, 2013 ICD Staff, Interns, and MA Students were able to attend a concert and discussion session with William Harvey, an American violinist and Director & Founder of the NGO “Cultures in Harmony,” who is currently working at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music as a conductor of the Afghanistan Youth Orchestra. Alongside Mr. Harvey, MA student Sercan Erbas, who is of Turkish background, played the ney, an end-blown flute that figures predominantly in Middle Eastern music. The ney has been played consistently for 4,500 – 5,000 years, making it the oldest musical instrument still in use.
The compositions played during the duet consisted of traditional Turkish songs by famous composer M. Nurettin Selçuk and poet Yunus Emre. The song titles included ‘Rivers of Heaven’ and ‘ I Asked the Yellow Flower’, which gave an insight into the music of Turkey and the themes it encompasses. MA student Sercan Erbas described the experience as eye-opening, saying that “[it is] good to see Western instruments tuning into Eastern instruments and music. This kind of tuning in is also needed in International Relations.” Erbas continued to say that although “sometimes it is difficult to solve international conflicts, today showed me that all you need is patience and communication.”
The successful performance session was followed by an interactive discussion where a number of topics were examined. Mr. Harvey shared his experiences of meeting people who did not know how to read music and how different cultures interpret music differently. He emphasized the fact that in the Middle East it is often the case that pieces of music get passed down through generations, being slightly modified every time. This makes for a very different musical experience than in Western musical traditions, in which musical compositions are emulated as much as possible. Mr. Harvey added that he thinks the Western classical music culture could learn from this more creative facet of the Eastern musical tradition.
During the discussion, Mr. Harvey was asked whether there are combinations of instruments that simply do not work. In his answer, he referred to another very important concept in politics, the necessity of knowing when to sit back and simply watch. It is important to know when your instrument simply does not fit with the rest, and in these cases you must be able to give your place up for someone else. Overall, the concert and discussion session proved very informative and educational and was a unique opportunity for the audience to participate in Cultural Diplomacy in action.
For more picture, please click here
During the “Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy in Afghanistan & Central Asia,” participants will have the exciting opportunity to attend the 13th All Nations Festival in Berlin. The All Nations Festival Berlin will grant an insight into the diverse cultural aspects of the participating countries and will allow participants the chance to experience International Relations in practice. Not only will embassies open their doors to the public, but many other cultural institutions will grant free access to their facilities, thus creating a great occasion for participants to find out more about the host countries. Visitors will also have the chance to have “visas” inserted into their free Festival Passes as a souvenir at each location included in the All Nations Festival. The Festival Pass will also help the visitor find their way around Berlin with a guide to public transport, however, there is no set route, so visitors are free to combine this experience with other aspects of Berlin sightseeing. In the past, The All Nations Festival has involved embassies from all around the world, including Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan which is central to the theme of the Symposium.
The All Nations Festival is an exceptional opportunity to get to know the customs and traditions of nations that participants are less likely to come across in their day-to-day lives. In 2010, the All Nations Festival was presented with the “Germany – Land of Ideas; 365 Locations within the Land of Ideas” award which is given only to events deemed to have an enduring impact on Germany’s cultural sustainability. These awarded locations stand for imagination, passion, and drive for the implementation of ideas that put Germany at the forefront of Cultural Diplomacy, giving people the chance to participate in cultural exchange.
The All Nations Festival is held in Berlin every year in close collaboration with the Berlin embassies and cultural initiative institutes throughout the capital. This being the 13th time the event has been held, a positive development regarding the number and diversity of participating embassies and cooperating cultural institutions.
The All Nations Festival 2013 will include the participation of several embassies and cultural institutions that will allow visitors to experience as many diverse cultures and traditions as possible. Partner embassies and organizations will include:
For more details on the All Nations Festival, please click HERE
By Cristina-Elena Pestrea, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
Carly Schmitt is a public artist and artistic entrepreneur. Schmitt is the President, founder and CEO of Artist @ Large, a small art business under which she executes large-scale public art projects and curates various community-based artistic initiatives. She holds a B.A. from Macalester College, and a M.F.A from the Bauhaus University in Weimar Germany. She is a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt German Chancellor Fellowship, and has presented her work at the German House in New York City, the Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin, and at various universities throughout the United States and Europe. Schmitt is best known for her work that blurs the conventional boundary between art and life through a variety of artistic approaches. Her public artworks aims to span gaps, build bridges and bring people together through a system of unexpected circumstances and extraordinary contexts. Schmitt’s work can be encountered throughout Europe and the United States.
During The Arts Diplomacy Festival 2012 “Cultural Diplomacy in Practice” organized by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, she held a Lecture called “”Food as an Emergency Diplomatic Tool in Contemporary Public Art”, explaining her activity and the potential that art has to bring people together and the importance of the art making process. For Carly Schmitt, creating an art work together is creating a space in which people come together, meet each other and initiate conversation. By doing this, by “bringing people together to start a conversation or just start an interaction is in itself an art-work”
More of the lecture can be viewed in the video below.
Heinz J. Kuzdas was born in Kuenzelsau, in South-West Germany. He has been residing in Berlin since 1972 and has lived in France, the USA, Canada and South America. Kuzdas studied Philosophy and Medicine at the Free University of Berlin, has worked as a medical coordinator, as a journalist and photo journalist and has organized and curated several exhibitions abroad and within Germany.
During the “A World Without Walls” Conference held at the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin on November 9th of 2010, Heinz J.Kuzdas held a lecture called “1989: The Year that Changed the World” describing the evolution and the fonction of the Berlin Wall.
For J. Kuzdas, “The Berlin Wall was also a unique collective artwork, which changed daily and often overnight – paint actions disappeared the next day by somebody’s new work of art or was modified in new surprising ways. There was of course controversy – some people saw in painting the Wall only disgusting cosmetics, others similar to the historical wall-newspapers in China, a somehow index of “Zeitgeist” – mood index continuum – as one wrote on the Wall. But here we observed colorful, new irony art, misusing and transforming a depressing horrible perfected inhuman and dangerous borderline and turning it into the longest canvas of art. Something came into existence for what we owe recognition and gratefulness to the many known and unknown who participated. So far there was no such intention from the official public. There are so many who only desire to keep alive the memory of the Wall of death and barbed wire.”
His lecture and a short interview (conducted by Mark Warman on 08.11.2010) can be viewed in the following.
An artist recently painted a part of the Berlin wall which sold for €500,000. Why did the Berlin Wall attract so much attention by street artists and why does it still have an allure both for artists and buyers?
You know this was a unique place where people could express themselves, it could not be stopped by the West Berlin police for example. Of course it was also some kind of damaging of property, that’s how people talk about graffiti in general but then this was an open space, a special space where people could go there and express themselves. People from school classes from all over the world came they had in mind they were prepared to do something and also artists from everywhere and groups from China, from Philippines, from everywhere.
Much has been said of the opportunity for expression that the Berlin Wall provided street artists, but do you feel that it ever played the role of cultural diplomacy, not only expressing ideas but also spreading them?
I think people actually came from all over the world to take photographs with themselves and the art at the Wall. I know that Leonardo DiCaprio said that this is his favorite photo, that he was taken in front of the Wall, in front of the heart, and he still likes this photos.
Do you feel that tagging and other forms of graffiti, which can often be considered vandalism, undermine the credibility of those who have something to say through their art?
Well, you know, I have of course, I respect everybody who expresses themselves somehow and I don’t differentiate so much between graffiti and art because the limits are really very opened but I personally am not so much for this king of writings but I consider that so many people like it. I really think art should replace the whole publicity, there is too much publicity in all over the cities and I would like to have it exchanged by either graffiti well done, there is of course less and it is the same with art.
The IndieLisboa 2013 Film Festival returned to Lisbon yesterday and was opened by the Pablo Larraín movie “No” (Chile) at the São Jorge Cinema. The film is based on a campaign that took place to decide if Augusto Pinochet was going to be kept in power.
The IndieLisboa is a Film Festival that happens every year in the capital of Portugal and screens independent movies from all over the world. This year, some of the movies include: Love by Ulrich Seidl (Austria), Parallax Sounds by Augusto Contento (America) and Le Grand Soir by Benoit Delépine and Gustave Kervern (France and Belgium). In the following days, there will also be a premiere of Spring Breakers by Harmony Korine (America), the episodes of Death Row Portraits by Werner Herzog (America), Rafa by João Salaviza (Portugal), and the documentaries, Animal Love, Jesus You Know ,and Models by Ulrich Seidl (Austria).
The Festival will close on April 28, with the film Before Midnight by Richard Linklater (America) – it’s the end of the trilogy that opened the first edition of the festival in 2004, with Before Sunrise.