The Winter School 2019 “Brokering Intercultural Exchange in Societies” 2nd Edition took place in Berlin, November 27 – 29, 2019.
The Winter School for Master and Ph.D. students in arts and cultural management raised new insights regarding the relationship of the profession of arts and cultural management to the wider socio-political issues of cultural rights, particularly cultural inequality, inclusion and exclusion within the context of globalisation and migration.
The programme explored such questions as, how can we get out of the dilemma of power structures when we operate within them? How can we implement the aspect of social impact right from the start?
The full programme is available here.
Read on to see some of the student reflections, learning, and experiences!
Following are some reviews from participants of the Winter School:
“Was a once in a lifetime experience.”
“It was a great positive experience. It inspired me and gave me a chance to meet a lot of professionals with interesting projects.”
“It was a creative and insightful even that made me aware that the problems I am facing, the others also are. The Winter School has also encouraged me to take more risks in my projects, hearing the experiences from others.”
“It was a great experience to learn more about the arts sector around the world. It was also nice to be able to converse with other students and assist with issues they are facing. The networking opportunity is great.”
Below is a review written by one of the Winter School 2019 participants:
Brokering Intercultural Exchange in Societies: An Experience at the Winter School 2019 in Berlin
by Shadrach Teryila Ukuma
When I got accepted to participate in the Winter School “Brokering Intercultural Exchange Within in Societies” organised by Heilbronn University, the Network Brokering Intercultural Exchange, and MitOst e.V. in Berlin, I was spontaneously elated and immediately ideas on what to expect come flooding my mind. I have been in a intercultural context several times before. I even organise a festival that has become ground for intercultural exchange, however, I have not been at a consciously organized intercultural setup where the programme of activities is deliberately designed to give insights on “brokering” intercultural exchange. I knew, I would make international friends, cultivate relationships that will be useful in my present and future work, get a better understanding of other people’s contexts and backgrounds, but still, I was curious about methodological issues, the tensions that come with difference, the pressure of an underrepresented voice (black African) in the mix of white dominant voices, etc.
The invitation list circulated indicated that majority of the participants would be coming from Europe, with two from the USA and one from the UK. I already knew two colleagues of mine that were also attending with me from Nigeria, I still wondered whether the other African or Indian or Latino names I could identify were resident in Europe and as such already acculturated or whether they were also just coming from their countries of descent as I was. Such was the agitated mind with which I arrived Berlin.
The Meet Up
As though the organizers Prof. Dr. Raphaela Henze from Heilbronn University and Silvana Naguib from MitOst e.V. had already foreseen that people would come with a lot of anxieties on their minds, they planned for a “voluntary” meetup in the evening of the arrival day! From my experience, I don’t think this should be a “voluntary” part of the programme. It is understandable that people may have arrived from far distances and may need to rest, but the benefits the meet up offered in terms of getting to know each other, making small talks and sharing drinks was already the beginning of intercultural exchange and it set the pace for the events to follow. This was such that when proper proceedings began the following day, it was as if the entire group had been together for days before. Even though not everyone was at the meet up, it didn’t matter because nearly half of the group already knew one another. Interaction and knowledge sharing came quite easily.
Proceedings began with further ice breaking games and collection of expectations from everyone. Prof. Dr. Raphaela Henze, who started to organise the Winter School in 2018 as part of the Brokering Intercultural Exchange network, which she has founded together with her colleague Victoria Durrer, gave some background on her intentions of bringing aspiring cultural managers together and set the floor by presenting her research on participatory arts projects and the necessity to overcome a paternalism and elitism still inherent in the sector. Her idea is to create a space for reflexion and thought experiments that most will not have the time to dive into during every day work. She most definitely succeeded in doing so. Two other participants also made presentations about their work they: one was on ethnomusicology by a Tunisian doctoral candidate, Alla al Khalah, and the other (which I joined as the group was split into two) was on a reclaiming a space of art and culture that was forcefully taken away from the community people in Vila Itororo, São Paulo, Brazil. Besides the impressive job done by the presenters, it was already obvious to me that the Winter School itself was a platform with a highly participatory approach to exchange and understanding of diverse contexts.
Another interesting aspect was the session for ideas exchange on challenges of participants in their personal, professional or organizational work. This was called the Karma Kitchen! I was also excited that I shared the experience about my festival, Kyegh Sha Shwa Cultural Festival as grounds for intercultural exchange. Participants in the group I joined offered useful insights on how to deepen the aspect of interculturality in what I do.
The Winter School Brokering
Intercultural Exchange within Societies opened up a whole new level of understanding of the other for me. I have always thought of myself as an open person, but with the session on “Who Are We” by Dr. Antonio C. Cuyler, where perspectives on myths and realities about the social frames humanity has created, I felt creepy and apprehensive and excited at the same. It was actually a mixed feeling for me, but also a mind opening exercise. The openness with which participants confirmed or refuted the stereotypes and prejudices on people groups, without being acrimonious or judgmental was quite inspiring. It was also the first time I was in the same space with people who openly identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, atheist, or agnostic. I’ve always wondered how I’d feel or react in such a space but the openness with which people shared, and the participatory and friendly atmosphere already established, made it easy to take in all the differences and not feel irked! I think this is one of the many strengths of the Winter School Programme. It provides a platform for understanding of the other and helps participants to deal with difference. Participants will definitely share these experiences with others and the desire to promote tolerance will deepen at a broader level.
The capacity building aspects of the Winter School provided insights on arts/cultural management; its offered perspectives on building common grounds for exchange to place; participants learned that over-professionalizing things in the arts narrows the space for participation and exchange, cultural democracy appeals more because of inclusion and participation. The idea here is to keep elitism in check in the production and consumption of the arts and culture, and rather advancing Intra-generational equity through sustained community engagement and inclusion as Prof. Dr. Raphaela Henze has hinted at at the very beginning.
Francois Mattarasso presented the ideas in his book A Restless Art (2019) and this anchored the discussions on participatory art on the final day. The discussions created a consensus that arts management and cultural mediation must deemphasize paternalistic approaches and rather consider what works in practical terms in the various contexts where people work. Particularly, western orientated concepts and frameworks were challenged for their low inclusion of voices or perspective from the global south. As someone from the global south, this made quite an impression on me; it was impressive to be amongst future leaders of the arts and culture management world and the new thinking was taking root and profoundly so. In fact, to me, the idea of artistic license comes alive more when there are less of the restrictions that evaluation frameworks impose.
The German Cultural Scene
I have heard of Berlin as a capital of some sort for global cultures. I have been to Berlin before and I could never be tired of it’s interculturality, historical sights, and art and cultural scenes. The Winter School Programme seemed much aware of this and included excursions to two important places, the Barenboim Said Academy and the Otto Weidt Museum. In my free time I also frequented the Christmas market and enjoined several servings of the Glühwein with some barbecues!
I would say that the Winter School ‘Brokering Intercultural Exchange within Societies’ is a great idea that is very much needed at this time as it is building global bridges for young professionals and also deepening the idea of cultural understanding and tolerance as well as enhancing capacities in the art and cultural management sphere! Thanks so much to the organizers.
Shadrach Teryila Ukuma is about completing his doctoral studies in Cultural Sustainability with the Graduate School “Performing Sustainability: Cultures and Development in West Africa”. His research is on cultural performances and collective trauma management amongst displaced persons in central Nigeria. He writes from Makurdi, Nigeria.