A member of ArtsAction Group attended the Aspen Institute's "Policies for the Growing Refugee Crisis in the Levant" in Washington DC this week. According to UNHCR, the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed 2 million, with Lebanon receiving the lion’s share, followed by Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Government and UN officials and experts on forced migration and humanitarian relief discussed the context and implications of the growing Syrian refugee crisis. Speakers included:
ArtsAction Group is a signatory to statement of support for education in emergencies for Syrian refugees
Part of the Education Cannot Wait Campaign
Statement of support for education in emergencies for Syrian refugees:
Education Cannot Wait
We call on the international community to support education for all Syrian children who are displaced or refugees due to the crisis.
As part of a full-scale regional education response, we specifically call for the full financing of education for the largest population of Syrian refugees in Lebanon through a UN plan endorsed by the Government of Lebanon and the Secretary-General of the United Nations by funding the global humanitarian appeal RRP 6.
By funding this plan, we will show it is possible to get children into school during an emergency and continue with the full-scale regional and global responses for education in emergencies because Education Cannot Wait.
Artist Federico Guzmán' Participates in the The International Biennial of Contemporary Art Foundation of Cartagena de Indias: #1 Cartagena
By Cindy Maguire
Federico is one of our partners in art and social justice work! We met Fico through his collaborative work with the Western Sahrawi refugee camp communities in SW Algeria. We also team up with him through our arts and human rights courses at Adelphi University. His work in #1 Cartagena is a beautiful reflection of his artistic talent and commitment to justice.
#1: Cartagena is an issue-oriented project with works spread throughout the historic district. #1: Cartagena reflects on the cultural traditions of the people, the history and the deep connections to the colonial past, as well as encompassing literature, cinema, music, dance and crafts. The Biennial focuses on the idea of presence in its multitude of meanings, conveying how the past continues with us in the present.
by Debbie Newman
Anyone who's had the privilege of visiting/experiencing Kosovo will appreciate the contagious spirit of reinvention that exists throughout this rapidly transforming nation. Working hard to establish their national and cultural identity and gain global acceptance, the Kosovar people have fought hard to sever ties with Serbia -- from whom they sought independence in 2008 -- and gain recognition as a country in their own right. And while Kosovo still faces an uphill battle (they have yet to be embraced by the United Nations or the European Union), they took a key step towards asserting their autonomy this week by embracing the power of social media.
According to yesterday's New York Times, Kosovo has already managed to carve out a new identity for itself in the digital realm. As the NYT reports, Kosovar citizens recently joined forces with members of U.S. Congress in petitioning Facebook to update their geopolitical tags. Even better? They actually succeeded. As a result of their digital media campaign, Facebook has agreed to acknowledge Kosovo's emergence as a sovereign nation by recognizing its place on the world map. (Previously, residents and visitors to the region who wished to promote their geographic whereabouts online were forced to register/identify with Serbia.)
And while this may, perhaps, seem like only a minor victory, it's important to consider the influence Facebook wields in shaping our global perceptions (and, seemingly, our modern news cycle). For a country like Kosovo -- young, resilient, passionate, determined -- the chance to air their history and struggle for acceptance on a global stage is already cause for celebration. That the rest of the world is finally taking notice of (and reacting to) their predicament may be seen as a beacon of hope. And, perhaps, a harbinger of more happy news to come.
Enas Elmohands, member of Arts Action Group, teaches students at Calhoun High School on Long Island, NY about the Moroccan government's occupation of the Western Sahara and the consequential refugee situation in Algeria. Calhoun High School has dedicated programming addressing human rights issues. Enas worked with Adelphi faculty member Diana Feige on this project.
Enas and another Adelphi student, Tyra Busigo presented to small groups of students on different pressing human rights abuses, including human trafficking and what's going on in the Western Sahara. In Enas's group a range of issues were covered including the history, geography, human rights violations, as well as the role of women in the camps. It's news to most people that women and men have equal rights and women take on leadership roles across the camps and in the diaspora. The role of arts and culture to push back against the human rights abuses was illustrated through the work of the ARTifariti festival. Early in the conflict between the Moroccan government and Western Sahrawi community, violent protests were the norm. Over time, the community has moved away from violent protests to working with arts and culture as a 'weapon' to fight the oppression as well as to raise global consciousness regarding this situation. The culminating activity was for each student group to share their human rights issue with their peers as well as to find some way of taking action in support of human rights for Western Sahara.
Finding ways of fostering human rights for all is a multifaceted endeavor, both large and small. Engaging youth in these issues is critical to imagining future worlds with less discrimination and more opportunities.
ArtsAction Group has just returned from Camp Boujdour, Western Sahara as participants in ARTifariti: International Art Encounters in the Western Sahara. Members who traveled to Camp Boujdour, about an hour outside of Tindouf, Algeria, were Enas Elmohands, Emma Exley, Cindy Maguire and Rob McCallum. The focus of ARTifariti 2013 was the creation of the Sahrawi Art School located in Camp Boujdour, in the Sahrawi refugee camps. The new school is "an open and participative learning space for the Sahrawi community in the camps." and works with an understanding of the arts as a form of personal expression, resistance and transformation in response to the human rights abuses by the Moroccan government in the occupied zones. ArtsAction Group is a signatory on a manifesto that outlines a range of supports we and other universities and cultural organizations from around the world will provide in solidarity with the community.
As part of the festival we introduced PackH2o, an innovative solution to water transportation and storage that relieves physical burden and protects against contamination. The Ministry of Water and Environments of *SADR with the support of ArtsAction Group and PackH2o, are conducting a needs assessment for a future roll out. Two of the packs were silkscreened by Sahara Libre Wear and featured in the ARTifariti fashion show!
ArtsAction Group held two arts workshops for children at the local primary school. The first workshop was for the students' to share their stories about water through drawings and a large scale collaborative mural. We shared a water story mural created by a group of students from the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City with the Sahrawi students. In this part of the world water, as one student put it, is the gift of life, as problems with access and quality are a ongoing and growing concern for the camps. For the second workshop balloons were introduced as a medium for creating sculptural headdresses. One of our aims was to introduce the students to art making with non-traditional materials, incorporating skill-building activities through directed play. After much laughter, experimentation and popping of too many balloons the group came up with beautiful, fanciful head dresses. Children were spotted wearing their headdresses throughout the camp center later that evening.
We are deeply moved by the experience and the hospitality extended by ARTifariti and the entire Sahrawi community. More updates and sharing of the project will be forthcoming! Stay tuned.
*ARTifariti is a project of the Ministry of Culture of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic SADR and the Association of Friendship with the Saharawi people of Seville AAPSS.
Artifariti festival - International Art encounters: An excellent video outlining the context of the festival
Two weeks to go before a team heads for the western Sahara. We will be taking 50 packH2O waterpacks with us to roll out at the arts festival. "The PackH2O Water Backpack took home the 2013 People’s Design Award at the National Design Awards gala in New York, Thursday, Oct. 17. Todd Oldham announced the winning design and presented the award to president and CEO of Grief Inc. David Fischer. PackH2O attempts to solve the global clean water crisis by giving people the power to easily transport their own water." www.packh2o.com
We will be using this space to comment and post projects, activities and conversations about our work.