Christina’s notes from the field:
In late April I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia attending a workshop for artists as peace-builders at the Institute for Security Studies with participants from 15 different African countries, and myself from the US – but of course as someone working on the African continent.
We were asked to discuss and share our experience of being both artists and peacebuilders. We shared what it’s like to straddle two worlds – art and peacebuilding and explored how we play a unique role in the peacebuilding process. From my perspective, as well as others in the group, that role is a lonely one, and one that means travelling uncharted territory. Traditionally, artists gravitate towards artistic communities that help them generate their artwork, but I find myself working alone. Traditionally, peace-builders engage without the arts, so I myself surrounded by colleagues and partners who may not have ever used the arts in their work. In the role of artist as peacebuilder we use the artistic process to facilitate change within a community, and to find ways that art can strike a dialogue, transform an opinion, and engage. We recognize the power in art, and channel that power to effect the change we want to see.
Some things that come with the territory of our work is that we are asked to act with responsibility, and have a social consciousness that is awake and alive to treat the issues we encounter with respect, humility and responsibility. This enriches our lives, and asks us to rise to a higher grounds, to think of how our artwork affects others, and to represent ourselves with care. We get to connect with people that we would never get to in art studios, art galleries, or other art specific contexts. People from completely different walks of life from our own whom we get to share stories with, and sometimes help facilitate the telling of their stories. It’s an incredibly rich experience in which I find myself exposed to a broad spectrum of the human experience.
I’ll be posting more on the experiences and knowledge that have come out of this conference soon and I’m excited to be using some of what I’ve learned in the field now in Goudoubo!