The art of peace: Interrogating community devised arts based peacebuilding

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

"I fear we [peacebuilders] see ourselves to be - and have therefore become - more technicians than artists. By virtue of this shift of perception our approaches have become too cookie-cutter-like, too reliant on what proper technique suggests as a frame of reference, and as a result our processes are too rigid and fragile." J.P. Lederach, Peace Scholar.
International interventions aimed at building peace in conflict and post-conflict societies have a rather negative track-record in achieving their objectives. One of the main explanations for this is the apparent inability of international actors to reach out and connect with local communities and leaders who are key in transforming societies and enabling a lasting peace.
In recent years, arts based approaches to peacebuilding have gained traction as an emerging area of research and practice typified by the work of Cynthia Cohen at Brandeis University and programmes delivered by NGOs Search for Common Ground and In Place of War and countless community projects. Despite these advances, arts based approaches to peacebuilding as an area of study and practice remains under researched. In particular, there is a deficit in understanding the impact community devised and led arts projects can have on peace formation at various stages of conflict amongst diverse actors. Thus, this project investigates the potential of grassroots led and devised arts projects in undertaking a key role in how peace emerges within a country and stresses the agency of local people to change their society. We aim to determine how arts can positively contribute to peace; this project builds a community of practice between academics, artists, practitioners and policy-actors to explore the transformative power of the creative arts in the context of conflict and peace. Creating an evidence-base around the impact of arts can shape new policies and NGO programming to improve the life of people in conflict-affected societies.
To this end, we will develop a methodology to assess the impact of arts-based peace projects and their legacies. The project's starting point is the simple notion that the nexus of aesthetic, cultural, and social engagement can be powerful and offers an 'undercommons' upon which to build peace. The project distinguishes between contexts of 'war', 'diffuse war', 'transitions from war to peace' and 'post-war' contexts to investigate the role that performative arts can play in each of these conflict stages. We will rely on the case studies of Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to analyse the complex interplay of the arts and war.
Comparing and contrasting these case studies in terms of where the arts are situated, who runs the arts projects and how they work best as a partner of peace formation, the project asks:
1. What role can grassroots arts play in different types and stages of war?
2. Based on these insights, under what conditions can the creative arts and peace formation processes be best integrated with each other?
3. How can we understand the extent to which creative arts projects help external or internal norms of peace to be adopted on a broader social level, or do they highlight local norms?
The project will be run by the University of Manchester, Durham University, and In Place of War with the support of several local researchers and artists, combining insights from the field of academia with local arts practitioners on the ground. Project leads will form a partnership with local organisations and actors in each of the case countries to conduct the research and devise a toolkit for grassroots and NGO practitioners on the one hand, but also to co-produce art productions on the other. The latter include exhibitions, an audio archive, community performances and web-based content, all of which will be accessible to the communities in the countries themselves as well as to UK audiences.

Planned Impact

Impact Summary:

This research aims to add to knowledge about how arts projects can support peacebuilding efforts. Given the limited existing research on community arts-based peacebuilding projects, it is anticipated that our findings will provide a framework to enhance policy and practice. This knowledge will be made available to academic audiences so they can integrate it into further research and teaching, and in the accompaniment and advice they provide to policy and programming. It will also be used in direct advocacy and advice to policy and programming in the case countries and more broadly. Finally, the research will inform the development of practical tools for grassroots/NGO organisations so they can better measure and articulate the impact of their work. We propose that the possibility of achieving these objectives outlined in the impact summary rests on three pillars:

- Involving local grassroots stakeholders in the research provides an opportunity for analysis, reflection and learning through our participatory research approach;
- Bringing together coalitions of different stakeholders and organisations working for change at the local level;
- Evidence-based recommendations on policy and programme implementation to internationally supported arts programmes.

The project will therefore be of particular benefit to:
- Artists, civil society and local or national authorities in each case study country. These groups will benefit from new insights into peacebuilding from their own country and practice in other countries and the development of new tools to understanding arts based peacebuilding. Furthermore, these actors will also be given a platform to share their practice and artistic work to a wide international audience.
- NGOs and community groups engaged in arts-based peacebuilding projects, who will be able to use our findings to better understand the nexus between arts with a view to incorporating and implementing arts programmes in their peacebuilding work. Moreover, the project allows them to learn and interact with a wide network of stakeholders from the peacebuilding sector from diverse international settings. Finally, the development of new tools to measure and articulate the impact of the work will improve their practice.
- Policymakers in the UK, and internationally, who are keen to improve their understanding of the contribution of the arts to social change and to address issues of conflict in the UK and abroad. These include Government departments such as the Home Office, the British Council, Ministry of Justice, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Stabilization Unit, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development.
Public audiences interested in narratives of art and conflict will be given the opportunity to explore the dynamics of conflict, peace and artistic expression from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and discover new artistic work from these places.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title The Art of Peace: Medellin 
Description Life is hard in the Colombia city of Medellin's barrios. Joblessness, poverty and the constant pressure to join or defy the trigger-happy drug gangs make the toughest corner of one of the world's toughest cities a challenging place to elbow your way into adulthood. The Art of Peace is an In Place of War and University of Manchester film that explores how hope, rhythm and tenacity are empowering artists and musicians to resist the violence of the city and reimagine the future. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Premiered at the In Place of War Art of Peace Summit in 2020. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alTtAp9uIAQ
 
Description Addis Ababa University (AAU) 
Organisation Addis Ababa University
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description Africa University 
Organisation Africa University
Country Zimbabwe 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description Circulo Innvador - Colombia 
Organisation Fundacion Circulo Innovador
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engaged the organisation in the Art of Peace Summit, supported the organisational development through weekly Zoom checkins, contributed to organisational capacity development.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Impact In progress
Start Year 2019
 
Description Ciudad Comuna - Colombia 
Organisation Corporation for Communication City Commune
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engaged the organisation in the Art of Peace Summit, supported the organisational development through weekly Zoom checkins, contributed to organisational capacity development.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building. In addition to this, a local cultural institution (Comfama) is delivering workshops on digital curation and (Ciudad Comuna) are facilitating the planning session to boost skills in local community partner organisations. Furthermore, these local partners. together with academics from Autónoma Latinoamericana University and University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano will play a crucial role in the co-creation of evaluation and impact tools though a series of workshops planned later this year.
Impact The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building. Ciudad Comuna are facilitating the planning session to boost skills in local community partner organizations. Furthermore, these local partners. together with academics from Autónoma Latinoamericana University and University of Jorge Tadeo Lozano will play a crucial role in the co-creation of evaluation and impact tools though a series of workshops planned later this year.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Culturizzarte - Colombia 
Organisation Culturizarte
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engaged the organisation in the Art of Peace Summit, supported the organisational development through weekly Zoom checkins, contributed to organisational capacity development.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Impact In progress.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Elemento Ilegal - Colombia 
Organisation Elemento Ilegal
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Impact In progress.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Elemento Ilegal - Colombia 
Organisation Elemento Ilegal
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Impact In progress.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Heregiesa University from Somaliland/ Somalia 
Organisation University of Hargeisa
Country Somalia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description Laban Theatre 
Organisation Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description Lluvia de Orión - Colombia 
Organisation Lluvia de Orión
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Engaged the organisation in the Art of Peace Summit, supported the organisational development through weekly Zoom checkins, contributed to organisational capacity development.
Collaborator Contribution The above local partner has contributed to the partnership by participating in workshops, interviews and the documentary and undertaking field visits and hosting visits to their organisations. As part of the artistic outputs, local arts partners are developing an exhibition highlighting their artistic work in peace building.
Impact In progress.
Start Year 2020
 
Description OKC Abrasevic 
Organisation OKC Abraševic
Country Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team (Dr Lydia Cole & Dr. Stefanie Kappler) are supporting the production of a sound archive of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The research team holds regular meetings with project partners OKC Abrasevic to enable the ongoing production of the archive, to work toward upcoming dissemination activities (in BiH and UK), and to interpret the archive for academic audiences through peer-reviewed publications (see below).
Collaborator Contribution Project partners OKC Abrasevic, led by sound artist Ronald Panza, are recording and producing a sound archive as part of the Art of Peace dissemination activities. OKC Abrasevic plan to host the archive, and will ensure that it reaches a wider audience through organising an exhibition, workshops, and online hosting of the archive.
Impact Cole, L. & Kappler, S. "Soundscapes of Mostar: Space and art beyond the divided city" (article submitted to International Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding)
Start Year 2019
 
Description Protestant University of Central Africa 
Organisation Protestant University of Central Africa
Country Cameroon 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description The Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) 
Organisation Addis Ababa University
Department Institute for Peace and Security Studies
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description University of Obafemi Awolowo Ile-Ife 
Organisation Obafemi Awolowo University
Country Nigeria 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact n/a
Start Year 2020
 
Description Art of Peace Summit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The Art of Peace change-maker summit was a series of online events taking place across November connecting 30 young people from Manchester to In Place of War's network of change makers from across the globe. The young people helped curate and lead parts of the programme as well as attending all sessions to learn/share skills, experiences and insights. Parts of the summit were recorded and streamed to In Place of War and festival platforms (Sim Sao Paulo) to reach a global audience.

AIMS
To create a new connected network of social activists from the Global South and Manchester communities.
To provide a space for general knowledge exchange and sharing of insights into contexts and methodologies.
Provide workshops on arts based social activism.
To share artistic responses to the COVID crisis from local and global contexts.
To host debates and discussions on the role of the arts as a pathway for community mobilisation and locally driven social change
To share some of the tools being used resolve community challenges in times of COVID from across the globe.
To tackle other issues that have arisen during the pandemic for example mental health issues / domestic abuse.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/c/InPlaceofWar/videos
 
Description University of Oxford Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A lecture at University of Oxford delivered by Ruth Daniel (In Place of War) and Teresa Bean (Art of Peace RA) about the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020