Eyram Fiagbedzi & Meike Lettau

Eyram Fiagbedzi is an Ethnomusicologist with research interests in Ghanaian traditional and popular music performances in both secular and religious contexts. He was a grant recipient of the Volkswagen Stiftung scholarship Project, Formation and Transformation of Musical Archives in West African Societies. He has worked as Assistant Lecturer at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana. He also directed the African Ensemble, and coordinated both local and international programs (workshops, performances, seminars) at the department of music. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the Department of Music and Dance, University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

The role of arts and culture for sustainable development in conflict situations in West-Africa – By Meike Lettau & Eyram Fiagbedzi

This paper investigates the role of arts and culture for sustainable development in conflict situations by taking two examples of artistic practices and expressions from Ghana and Nigeria. First, Bɔbɔɔbɔ performances its meaning, position and role forcommunity building among the Ewe of Ghana and, second, visual representations as a tool for social cohesion in Borno in Northern Nigeria will be discussed. Both countries are challenged by ethnic and religious conflicts, social marginalisation and displacement.

In this context, artistic practices can contribute in fostering social cohesion and participation which leads to more peaceful coexistence and the creation of pluralistic societies. Likewise, cultural education should not be understood as formal education, but rather as cultural negotiation processes that give sense and meaning to things and situations. Artists, scientists, cultural politicians, activists and actors have the means to interfere in these negotiation processes. This is what they do in situations of social crisis, in which especially actors that recognize the specific power of cohesion in the arts are needed. Artists can undertake shaping functions in societies and make a positive contribution to the transformation of societies. The concepts of peace and respect must always be reinterpreted, which is usually not part of the formal education processes, in this case other actors have to undertake these tasks. Artists need to become aware of their role, that they are responsible in contributing and ensuring to stabilisation of a society, which can be done through emphasising norms and values or highlighting abuses or social injustices, among others. In this case, artists are social commentators to channel but also to defuse conflicts, which can be a model for an aesthetic transformation of conflicts. 

Last but not least, effective frameworks of cultural policies are needed to enable sustainable cultural practices. In this sense cultural policy does not only mean state and governmental actions but also bottom up processes and civil society actions, thus artistic practices are part of it. Cultural policy serves a society and can, therefore, also facilitate peace building processes (see Schneider, Gad 2014, 6f.). With regard to social development processes and sustainability the task of cultural policy is to facilitate access and participation, thus “development should not be considered as a finality […], but the extent to which people are able to participate in [cultural], political, social, and economic life“ (Sen 1999 quoted from Duxbury et.al., 2017: 216).

The methodological approach of this paper follows the research method of case study. Data has been gathered through field research, participating observation and expert interviews in Ghana and Nigeria.

Meike Lettau holds an M.A. in Arts and Cultural Mediation from the Department of Cultural Policy at Hildesheim University, Germany. She is working as an academic associate at the UNESCO-Chair ‘Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development’ at Hildesheim University and coordinating the Graduate School ‘Performing Sustainability. Cultures and Development in West-Africa’ with partner universities in Nigeria and Ghana. Her PhD research is focusing on the role of cultural activism and civil society in transformation processes. In the past she has worked with several international cultural institutions (Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa), Goethe-Institut Pune, KHOJ International Artists‘ Association, ARThinkSouthAsia).

The Role of Cultural Activists and International Cultural Exchange in Processes of Transformation. The Example of Art Festivals and German Foreign Cultural Policy in pre- and post-revolutionary Tunisia – By Meike Lettau

Political and social transformation processes related to the Arab up in North Africa are of great relevance for interdisciplinary scientific research areas. Civil society is often seen as a key actor in the region in creating places of freedom of expression and shaping democratic spaces. In this context, this presentation investigates the role of cultural activists and international cultural exchange in processes of transformation by taking the example of art festivals and German foreign cultural policy in pre- and post-revolutionary Tunisia.

Based on the concept of transformation and the theoretical concept of civic engagement as a political strategy in transformation processes, the presentation will analyze to what extent civil society actors implementing art festivals in public space can take influence. The specific capabilities and possibilities of influence of three art festivals (Dream City, De Colline en Colline, Interference) in the various phases of transformation (Liberalization (until 2011), Transition (2011-2014) and Consolidation (since 2014)) are examined.

The presentation will prove that civil society involvement in the cultural sector, be it strategic, constructive or reflexive, can influence political and social processes of transformation. The festivals developed artistic activism as a strategy for change. Artists were political actors of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, they shifted the production of art into the public space and developed new aesthetic languages and formats, thus contributing to democratic development.

On the other hand, international cultural exchange in processes of transformation will be investigated by taking the example of the German Goethe-Institut as a foreign quango, engaging in supporting the cultural sector in Tunisia. The research analyzes the new policy framework of the German-Tunisian ‘Transformation Partnership’ (since the Arab uprisings in 2011) and the extended work approaches of the Goethe-Institut. It aims to review the work of the Goethe-Institut through the eyes of cultural activists on the ground. The presentation examines policy and practice of the Goethe-Institut in times of the Tunisian transition (before and after 2011), its role as well as its partnership approach and engagement in the fields of qualification, participation andnetworking.

The methodological approach of this paper is an analysis of inside views of Tunisian cultural activists on the ground, means investigating the stance of local artists. Expert interviews have been conducted, based on semi-structured guidelines. Tunisian cultural activists from different backgrounds, working in independent initiatives, associations and the Ministry of Culture were questioned. This is combined with a content analysis of publications, policy papers, academic and journal articles, media and conference reports as well as websites relevant to the subject. The documents are issued by the German Federal Foreign Office, the German Bundestag, the Goethe-Institut, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, the German Commission for UNESCO and other initiatives.

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