Peacebuilding and the Arts NOW! April 2014

Notes from the Director

Greetings from the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts at Brandeis!

This has been an especially eventful semester for us. We participated in the university’s festival of social justice, ‘DEIS Impact, with a series of events entitled "Seeking Lives of Purpose,” which included “Portraits of Purpose," Don West’s outstanding exhibit of Boston-area and international social justice leaders, a song-writing workshop led byJane Wilburn Sapp, and a performance/presentation on spirituality and the quest for justice in African American music, delivered by Jane and me on a very snowy February morning.

Five students are working on the documentation of Jane’s practice. I wrote to them, responding to their first set of reflections on the work. Among other things, we have launched a campaign to support this documentation effort;check it out. Scroll to the bottom if you’d like to hear the powerful song Brandeis students wrote with Jane’s support, inspired by Don West’s riveting “Portraits of Purpose.”

 I recently I traveled to Theatre J in Washington, D.C., where I witnessed a workshop of Motti Lerner’s play “The Admission,” which compellingly grapples with the challenges of both inter-generational and inter-communal conflict in relation to the contentious, painful memories of the destruction of a Palestinian village in 1948. I also visited colleagues at Queens University in Belfast who spent an afternoonexploring the resources of the Acting Together toolkit. Polly Walker also hosted ascreening of the documentary at The Playhouse in Derry-Londonderry.

We intend to offer workshops on using the Acting Together toolkit this summer, once in Istanbul in conjunction with IPRA and once in New England. Please contact us if you would like us to send you information about these opportunities.

In this issue of the newsletter, we feature creative approaches to climate change and environmental justice in celebration of Earth Day, as well as a section on puppetry and social change.

As always, we hope you find these snapshots of the field both useful and inspiring!

All the best,


Cynthia E. Cohen, Ph.D., Director

Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

What's Happening

International Visiting Research Scholar Public Talk:

A Way Out of No Way: Music as a Source of Resilience, Healing and Justice

May 6, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies 

Dr. Cynthia Cohen will report on her research into resilience, peacebuilding and the arts, focusing particularly on her collaboration with the distinguished musician, activist, educator and cultural worker Jane Wilburn Sapp. Jane will accompany Dr. Cohen, share her own stories and perform a selection of songs to illustrate the power of music’s contributions to resilience. Read more

Read more News

Creative Approaches to Sustainability and Environmental Justice 

Poster: "Break New Ground – Plant an Urban Farm Garden" by Joe Wirtheim, Image provided courtesy of the artist.

Art for Advocacy: 13 Posters for Sustainable Social Change 

“As a medium for social change, posters record our struggles for peace, social justice, environmental defense, and liberation from oppression,” says Elizabeth Resnick, professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and curator of “Graphic Advocacy: International Posters for the Digital Age.” The posters highlight a number of environmental issues including climate change and food security. Read more

Wu Mali – EcoArt in Taiwan 

Taiwanese artist Wu Mali has worked for twenty years to create urban and rural environmental art projects in Taiwan – often using indigenous traditions and materials – and has collaborated with communities, scientists, and institutions to clean wetlands, save soil and species, and examine the future of Taiwan. Mali states, “Every environmental problem is, at heart, a cultural problem.”Read more.  

The Relief Valve/Subap Exhibit, Turkish EcoArt

Turkey is experiencing the tragic effects of environmental destruction. Even the subtle shifts in climate have had drastic effects on farmers, livestock breeders, and fishermen. “Relief Valve” brought ecoart by thirteen Turkish activist artists to an outside exhibit in Ohio, providing a glimpse into how artists from another country are addressing similar environmental challenges. Read more.

Report – “ReGeneration: Young People Shaping Environmental Justice”

This report by the Movement Strategy Center of Oakland includes a finding (#5 on page 32) that innovative cultural work is a distinguishing feature of youth environmental justice organizing. “Organizers are using the power of arts and culture to engage youth in the [environmental justice] movement, to reach the hearts of community members, to inspire dialogue around divisive topics, and to build community.” Read more.

African Environmental Justice Documentary Films

This blog is a resource for students and researchers looking for documentary films about social and environmental justice issues in Africa. Films include “Activists Challenge African Land Grab,” “Solar farming in Africa,” “Black Gold,” and “The 4th Revolution: energy autonomy.” Read a related article on land grabs in Africa andlearn what you can do.

Hoseob Yoon and the Green Canvas Design Studio, South Korea

Hoseob Yoon is a South Korean graphic artist who has devoted his career and his life to protecting the environment. He has served as a Distinguished Visiting Practitioner at the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis.Read more about Yoon’s work, visit the Green Canvas website, and view some of his environmentally-focused designs

Beehive Design Collective

Emerging out of the global justice movement of the late 1990s, the Beehive Design Collective  primarily focuses on cooperative illustration projects. For “The True Cost of Coal,” the Beehive allied with Appalachian grassroots organizers fighting mountaintop removal coal mining to reflect on the complexity of the struggles for land, livelihood, and self-determination playing out in the region. Read more

The ENRICH Project

The Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health (ENRICH) Project, hosted “Time to Clear the Air,” a video contest on environmental justice for indigenous African, Nova Scotian, and Mi’kmaq youth to propose art projects that address the impact of locally unwanted land uses (LULUs), the environment, and community health. Select participants will receive financial support for developing their arts-based project. Read more

Artists on Climate Change and Global Warming Solutions 

Artists on Climate Change and Global Warming Solutions is a collection of artists working on issues of global climate change and environmental justice, compiled by Climate Change Education. View more resources on media and arts for climate change solutions.

Read about more Arts and Resources on Creative Approaches to Sustainability and Environmental Justice


Puppetry and Social Transformation

Tavia LaFollette – ArtUp

Tavia La Follette is a director, designer, curator and performance artist, as well as the founder and director of ArtUp, a nonprofit arts organization whose mission is to bridge a language of peace through the actions of art. “My work in puppetry and performance art has taught me the power of symbols. Symbols help me to say what I cannot say with words, they tap into our emotions…” Read more

Hand Spring – Puppetry in Africa 

In African puppetry, masks and figurines hold specific meaning and supernatural power in performance. The Handspring Trust works to build skills in puppetry amongst impoverished youth as well as professional artists. The company produced the play “Ubu and the Truth Commission,” which depicts the moral strife of the anti-apartheid era in South Africa. Learn more.

The Bread and Puppet Theater

The Bread and Puppet Theater of Vermont is a world-renowned puppet theatre that has influenced artists from all over the world. “We believe in puppet theater as a wholesome and powerful language” said founder Peter Schumann. “The concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood. More complex theater pieces followed.”Learn more.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre

The mission of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) of Minneapolis is to bring people together for the common good through the power of puppet and mask performance. “We believe that puppetry’s power lies in the act of transformation – of bringing something inanimate to life. As we share this act of building and performing, we find that theater brings people together. It builds community.” Learn more about HOBT and the annualMayDay Festival and Parade.

Reflection on the influence of South African academic and puppeteer Dr. Aja Marneweck  

By David Grant, Senior Lecturer in Drama, Queen’s University, Belfast 

“Since being introduced to the accessible but richly evocative technology of life-size paper puppets by South African academic and puppeteer Dr. Aja Marneweck, I have found it an adaptable and stimulating resource in all my applied drama work…”Read more

Spiral Q

Spiral Q of Philadelphia builds strong and equitable communities characterized by creativity, joy, can-do attitudes, and the courage to act on their convictions. “We see a responsive and engaged society that rallies consistently to overcome the challenges of discrimination and oppression. We envision a world of abundance that mobilizes its resources to nurture shared vitality.”Learn more.

Enlisting Shadow Puppets as Agents of Change in Indonesia 

Wayang puppetry is a dazzling art form that transmits cultural traditions and values, and has left Indonesian audiences spellbound for centuries. The United Nations Population Fund, along with the National Family Planning Board, is using the popularity and power of wayang as a way to get people thinking about reproductive health and gender dynamics. Learn more and watch a video


Resources and Opportunities, Including Acting Together Toolkit

“Acting Together” Resources for Documentation and Assessment of Peacebuilding/Arts Initiatives

How do we assess and evaluate initiatives in the arts and peacebuilding field? Questions surrounding assessment and evaluation are central to advancing our work. The Acting Together Project resulted in several resources that could be helpful:


● A toolkit, which includes a 13-minutevideo juxtaposing comments about assessment and evaluation from leading theatre artists and leaders of ritual.

● A print guide for documentation and assessment, consisting of a set of questions partners in arts/peacebuilding initia
tives can ask each other as they assess their work.

● A print guide for minimizing risks of doing harm. At the conclusion of the Acting Together project, we synthesized what we learned about the risks of harm inherent in peacebuilding performance, and organized them into a practitioner-friendly document. Care to minimize harm should be a central aspect of assessment in this field. 

● Chapter six of the second volume of the Acting Together anthology includes a framework for describing and assessing peacebuilding/arts initiatives. The anthologies can be purchased through New Village Press.

The Acting Together toolkit can be purchased from our partner, ReCAST, Inc., in a package with the documentary.

Multi-Arts Pedagogic Safari 

July 20 – August 15; September 21 – October 14

The Multi-Arts Pedagogic Safari is a 21-day creative training program that fuses African traditions and artistic expressions with Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and other art forms to transform vulnerable communities in East Africa. The Amani Peoples Theatre (APT) of Kenya is a leading provider in participatory methodologies in conflict transformation, community development and healing from trauma. Read more

Intensive Theater Course: Professional Pathways in Applied Performance 

May 28 – June 5, Syracuse University

This course introduces career options using performance in contexts and venues such as education, the justice system, healthcare, the political arena, community development, museums, and social service agencies. Students encounter multiple performance methods and glean how such work is used with participants of all ages, ethnicities, and circumstances. Read more

Call to Artists, Academics & Professionals: Participation in Conflict Resolution & Dance Documentary

Bahar Karbakhsh, a graduate student of law in the field of alternative dispute resolution, is issuing a call to artists, academics and professionals across Canada and beyond who are interested in contributing to a documentary about the power of dance/movement and how they can be used for conflict resolution. Read more andcontact Bahar to express how you would like to contribute to the film. 

Call for Presentations: International Conference on "Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity"

December 18 – 22, Tuscany, Italy

“Theatre Between Tradition and Contemporaneity” is an international multidisciplinary conference recommended to performing arts practitioners and researchers from different countries interested in applying traditional performing arts methods to their contemporary work, and expanding their international networks and partnerships. Learn more and apply.

A Guide to Tweeting for Peace and Social Change

Since its founding in 2006, Twitter has rapidly grown to be one of the most powerful online platforms for connecting hundreds of millions of individuals and organizations around the world. Over the past few years, Twitter has rapidly become a powerful tool for connecting social activists fostering political reform and change in many regions of the world. Read more.

TED Talk Video: “The Danger of a Single Story”

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice, and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Watch the video

New Publication – Performing Peace-building: Conferences, Rituals and the Role of Ethnographic Research 

by Tobias Denskus

This article explores performance and ritual theory in the context of anthropological research on peacebuilding institutions and knowledge discourses. The article analyzes how a potentially critical and contested concept such as liberal peacebuilding has been absorbed by an emerging ritual economy of indoor events, policy papers and transnational actors.Download the paper and read a blog post by the author. 

Summer Peacebuilding Institute

May 5 – June 13

Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) uses an interactive approach in all courses to draw upon the rich experience of participants who are interested in integrating conflict transformation, peacebuilding, restorative justice, trauma awareness, and related fields into their work and life. The Acting Together anthology is required reading for the course. Learn more and view the flyer.


Casagrande is a Chilean artistic collective and experimental journal created by poets Julio Carrasco, José Joaquín Prieto, and Cristóbal Bianchi. Casagrande performances include the “Bombing of Poems,” a performance involving dropping one hundred thousand poems over cities bombed during military confrontations, from Berlin to Guernica to Santiago. Read more

Second Annual Global Peace Workshop

June 23 – 27, Muğla, Turkey

The second annual Global Peace Workshop will explore the role of young people in promoting peace through arts, culture and tourism. Culture is a vital instrument in building peace, helping us to understand ourselves, our values and our traditions in relation to others near and far. Learn more. is a new website created by Emma Lacey that is dedicated to arts education resources. Visitors can search for degree programs for teaching the arts, such as a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), or a Master’s in Education (MEd) for those who already have teaching licensure and experience. Visit the site

La MaMa Umbria International announces:

15th Annual International Symposium for Directors/Theatre-makers

and 5th Annual Playwright Retreat

Summer 2014, Spoleto, Italy

Approaching theatre for social change from a variety of perspectives, both programs bring together master artists who focus on the practical application of theatre practices as a means for involving communities in social and political issues.

Women Environmental Artists Directory 

The purpose of the Women Environmental Artists Directory (WEAD) is to provide information regarding the ecoart and social justice art fields to artists, curators, writers, art administrators, educators in art and ecology, cross-disciplinary professionals and others; to facilitate international networking among artists working with ecological and social justice issues… Read more.