We've just returned from Woodstock, NY after the opening of our first ArtsAction Group exhibition in the US. We had lots of folks coming through the gallery, viewing the work, and asking questions about our work. On exhibition were several large scale body maps created by children and youth from Kosovo and the Brentwood Residential Center (which is a facility for girls involved in the juvenile justice system). We also had photographs documenting 6 years of our work, in Kosovo and last year's projects in the Western Sahrawi refugee camps, as well as a viewing of a film illustrating our work in both of these communities, as well as animations created at Fellbach-Haus this past spring.
A special thanks to Beth Humphrey, artist and arts educator, who facilitated this installation. We look forward to growing the partnership with students and teachers in that region of NY State as well as connecting them, through the arts, to the Kosovar and Western Sahrawi communities.
Just back from presenting our Kosovo work at the Art, Peace and Conflict Conference at the Desmond Tutu Centre at Hope University in Liverpool, UK. People from around the world presented their work linked to arts, peace and conflict.
Our presentation, currently a working paper, covers our work in Kosovo spanning 1997 through the present. The work encompasses both community and grassroots-based fieldwork, as well as theoretical framing to illustrate how youth in specific communities, both rural and urban, processed their experiences during and after the protracted conflict and war whilst participating in arts programmes. The visual and performing arts projects were/are enacted across formal and non-formal venues such as refugee camps, community centres, museums, public schools, and cultural centres.
The paper discusses how the arts are utilised within four specific identity-based phases:
1. Existential-Conflict in medias res (≥ 1990s) - survival, basic psychosocial responses;
2. Processing and Healing (post-war July 1999) – transitions between trauma, uncertainty, nostalgia;
3. Freedom (immediate post-declaration of independence in February 2008) – dynamics in collective validation and esteem;
4. State building and community building (2008 and beyond) – transitions from euphoria to ambiguity and fear.
The entire event was uplifting, inspiring and a testimony to the power of the arts as a tool for healing and transformation. Stay tuned for more information and links to the individuals and organizations that presented over the 3-day event as well as to our final paper.
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.
For the most up-to-date information regarding our work and projects, check out our website and social media sites. We will be using this space to comment and post projects, activities and conversations about our work.