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“Art as a catalyst in building reconciliation-building peace in war-torn Sri Lanka [2011年04月18日(Mon)]
(continued from vol. 1)

Q. What exactly was the project?

Jayawardene. We began approaching the local government in
Trincomalee to help us select the public schools that most need-
ed a course in modern art education. It was important that we
work closely with the local government officials because we
needed their support to develop a sustainable ethnic integration
message. A total of 16 teachers were selected and they were
equally divided between the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim
ethnicities. There were four females as well. The only criteria
we gave the education department of the local government
was that the teachers must be open to new ideas because our
objective was not only to teach about modern art but also to
change their attitudes about each other and develop trust
between them which is the core message of art. There were a
total of three workshops that were carried out in different areas
of the country—we took the group of teachers out of
Trincomalee for the first two workshops and then the last one
was held as a three-day camp back in the town. We started our
sessions at 9 am and finished off for the day at 9pm. The first
sessions covered such subjects as art history, modern art
paintings and teaching skills and they visited museums and
historical sites where we pointed out to them how various for-
eign influences including Tamil art from Southern India had
nurtured the origins of Sri Lankan art and culture. After dinner,
our discussions focused on the problems the teachers had to
grapple in their classrooms. The issues they spoke about were
similar mainly because teachers in rural public schools are not
trained in the arts in comparison to their counterparts in the big
cities. This built a platform of solidarity between them paving the
way for another important aspect of the workshop which was to
ask them to share their experiences as teachers. They began to
slowly open-up and talk about the issues they faced in their
schools which was for reach of them a rare insight into the
problems the minority Tamil schools were facing and the gap that
existed in the rural schools that are divided between the eth-
nicities. The majority Sinhala teachers understood the
discrimination their Tamil and Muslim colleagues faced when
the teachers began to talk about the lack of art tools in their
schools and the numerous hardships they faced. The Tamil and
Muslim teachers talked about having to close their schools
regularly when they were forced to flee to safety, which affected
their students badly. As the days went by, slowly the group began
to discuss among themselves how they can rectify the situation
and help each other.

Q. What was the outcome towards peace from the art project?

Jayawardene. The final object of the workshops was a joint exhi-
bition on modern art but the important point was that the parti-
cipants decided to hold the exhibition in ancient Hindu temple in
Trincomalee. This was a landmark in our goal to build tolerance
and harmony among the people. By holding the exhibition in a
religious place where the Tamil people worship, the group show-
ed they needed to respect the wishes of the minorities rather
than the majority which was the norm up to now. They had formed
a strong bond. Another important point they raised at the end
was to keep working together in a team. A Sinhala teacher took
the art work made by a Tamil teacher to display in his school
where the majority of students and their parents have never had
interaction with the Tamil speaking population. Even Sinhala
Buddhist monks visited our modern art exhibition and partici-
pated in our discussions about the need to help each other.

Q. Do you think art, which is usually considered as a “soft”
peace building exercise, works better in post conflict society?

Jayawardene. I think a key reason why we were successful is
because we did not directly use the conflict as a way of talking
about ethnic integration. By using the theme of modern art appre-
ciation and skills building, we avoided bringing up topics of war
such as bloodied or dead corpses, rape or torture. Instead we
took up subjects of art such as nude or pregnant figures, broken
chairs or simple trees and nature and the notion of talking about
taboo topics against tradition and the value of freedom of
thought which are all modern art concepts. In this way, we
deliberately avoided the issue of blame which would have made
the participants uncomfortable and could have contributed to
distrust instead of creating at atmosphere of generosity and
acceptance which are important to nurture discussion. Thus, I
would say with confidence, that arts if it can be used strategical-
ly, can become an intense tool to bring sustainable peace
building.

Q. yes. This is very useful. Thank you for talking and sharing this
profound experience with us.

“Art as a catalyst in building reconciliation-building peace in war-torn Sri Lanka. [2011年04月18日(Mon)]
“Art as a catalyst in building reconciliation-building peace in
war-torn Sri Lanka.

The Vibhavi Arts Academy is a leading arts academy in Sri Lanka
that has earned respect for pioneering art education in the local
Sinhala language for the public. In 2010 the academy developed a
unique post conflict arts-based project that is described as a
“facilitator” in the process of peace-building. The project targeted
an ethnically diverse group of art teachers in public schools in
Trincomalee port city located in the north east part of the island.
The one-year project was created to teach public school teachers
working in the post conflict community the appreciation of mod-
ern art which proved to be a strategy to disseminate messages
of peace and harmony. The selection of Trincomlaee as the main
location for the Vibhavi pilot project was because of the local
diverse ethnic population in the area. Post conflict peace build-
ing focused on ethnic integration as a priority in the town which
is home to a fast growing population of 130,000 people who are
divided equally between the majority Sinhala, and minority Tamil
and Muslim communities.
The Sri Lankan ethnic war was fought between the government
military forces and the now defunct Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam
(LTTE) rebel group and created suffering and destruction mostly in
the north and east of the island. The war ended in May 2009 with
the defeat of the LTTE. Local peace movements are active in bring-
ing the divided communities together. Vibhavi meaning in Sanskrit,
"the untapped energy of healing", was established in 1993. The
academy is a non-governmental organization that has pioneered
the expansion of art in the lives of the ordinary people.
We speak with Shyama Jayawardene, an artist and the coordi-
nator of the Vibhavi program who developed the concept and
art work in this reconciliation project.

Q. Tell us how you developed the concept of teaching modern art
to local teachers with the goal of bringing ethnic reconciliation.

Jayawardene. War has touched the lives of every Sri Lankan
because the conflict has spanned over thirty years. The hardest
hit are the Tamil people living in the north and east where most
of the fighting took place. The populations living here have seen
their family members killed and homes destroyed over several
generations. When the war was officially over in May 2009, I was
looking for a way to contribute to the next big challenge that
faced Sri Lanka—post conflict reconciliation. I had to be care-
ful because it is not easy to talk about reconciliation or the
concept of forgiving each other soon after a long bitter conflict.
Wounds are still raw and people from the different ethnicities
who have been affected by the war do not trust each other and
so are not ready to just forget the past just because the bombs
have stopped falling. So it was very important to start the recon-
ciliation process in a "gently" way, by which I mean the goal of
bringing them together must not be thrust down their throats.

Q. so how did you achieve this?

Jayawardene. I was reading the newspapers one day and there
was a short article written by a local arts expert who wrote
disparagingly about modern art. Basically what he was saying
was that modern art was a threat to local traditions and so was
not necessary to be taught to the local people. As Vibhavi is an
arts academy I decided this kind of thinking could be an apt
subject that we can tackle. I realized the need to challenge this
opinion and we could start by launching a program where
modern art appreciation can be talk to art teachers in rural
schools. Such an approach serves two purposes—the first
is obvious which is to bring new skills to art teachers. But the
second goal is more subtle. Based on the perception that art is
a medium to communicate the human experience I decided that
by teaching modern art techniques I could nurture a group of
teachers from diverse ethnic groups to work together. Through
close teamwork with the goal of learning modern art they would
understand for themselves how they can benefit by being
together. They would realize for the first time theadvantage of
putting their past intercommunal differences aside.
Learning from other conflicts Vol.2 [2011年04月18日(Mon)]
(continued from vol. 1)

Q. Apart from work, please tell us how does visiting conflicts
areas actually help the peace builder on a personal basis.
Soraya. I must tell you that my participation in the AMARC interna-
tional conference helped to boost my confidence. When I had to
make a presentation in front of a large audience, which was my
first such experience, I practiced repeatedly to be able to speak
in English, another important step in my life work. I returned with
a lot of hope and willingness to work harder for peace. You know,
peace builders who are stationed on the ground and work with
the very local community do not have the opportunities to travel
out of their areas as much as they would like. This has to
change. Grass root peace builders are the people who know the
reality of conflicts and how they affect the community. Their
voices should be heard internationally so that the people who
wage war understand the damage that it causes to ordinary
people. The other side of helping local peace builders to travel
to other conflicts is to give them access to more information.
This kind of exchange will help them to work in new ways at
home and overcome challenges at home. I returned from the
AMARC conference with a good network with other women-led
radios which was my object. I was also greatly encouraged by
courage displayed by the women speakers. They were strong in
character and spoke about how they speak out their opinions
on the community radio. I was inspired to start my own civic
women’s radio network in the Deep South. This will empower
women and make the community radio a base to talk of the
hidden issues such as violence against them.

Experience Two
Tengku Arifin. I have been a radio reporter, in both mainstream
and community, for more than a decade. Being able to join the
AMARC conference was an important learning experience for me.
The exposure to an efficient international community of radios
taught me the importance of having an international appeal. In
Southern Thailand we are caught up with our own conflict and
have do not have much time to analyze and learn from other
conflicts. This situation must be improved. By going to other
conflict areas or learning about them, we can compare and ana-
lyze our own conflict through objective lenses. Meeting other
peace makers is also time to share your own opinion with them.
The dialogue with them is important. My exchange with peace
makers from Aceh was satisfactory because we discussed the
issues of underground resistance against the politics of our
countries. I understood the importance of working to reach a
long-term solution by incorporating every group in peace making.

Experience Three
Arida Samoh, 24, reporter, Aman News Center, is a participant in
the program to build people-to people solidarity in Peace
Building in Southern Thailand and Mindanao. He was one of five
peace makers from Southern Thailand who were sponsored by
the Saskawa Peace Foundation to join the three month internship
project that is under the direction of the Initiatives for
International Dialogue organization based in Davao, Mindanao,
Philippines. Under the internship program they will join English
training, introductory course to conflict and peace building in
Mindanao as well as field visits and networking activities. The
program is implemented through networking activities, study and
field visits.

Q. What are a few of the most memorable exchanges you have
experienced with people working on peace building in Mindanao?
For a start I learned and analyzed myself the intricacies of the
Mindanao conflict and realized there were many tribal ethnicities
that have their own aspirations in comparison with Southern
Thailand which has only two ethnicities—the Thai Muslim
majority and Buddhist minority. The less groups involved could
mean that is perhaps it is easier to look for a resolution to the
conflict. I also learned through this exchange program that civil
societies that work on peace are recognized in society as impor-
tant players in the peace building. This situation is not as
apparent in our country. The work of grass-root organizations is
important to spread the message of peace. I will travel to
northern Thailand and meet with the Buddhist population in
that area to teach and discuss with them the problems faced by
the Muslims in the south. It is important to build bridges not only
between the conflicts in South East Asia but also within the
country.

Experience Four
Shareef Sa-id. 23, student. Student Federation of Southern Thai-
land. I learned the strength of the Muslim people's identity in
Mindanao that is represented strongly in their local organizations.
When I return to Pattani, in southern Thailand, I will share the
importance of empowering young people with an identity that I
believe can be learned from listening to the older generation.
This activity is to raise public awareness for the need to build
solidarity which then forms a strong base to work towards non-
violence. This is what I learned from the peace activities in
Mindanao.

Thank you very much for sharing your views with our site.

Learning from other conflicts [2011年04月18日(Mon)]
Learning from other conflicts-- strengthening people-to-people
solidarity for peace.

The lessons learned by peace builders from their counterparts in
other conflict areas through the exchange of opinions and sharing
of experiences on the ground are creating networking across
borders. Armed with new ideas, stories, and friends in other
countries, the peace builders return with stronger commitment
to incorporate at home what they have learned. Exchanges
between people can be in the form of international forums, joint
advocacy, campaigns, learning and sharing lessons and intern-
ships.

Experience One
Soraya Jumjuree, head of the womens peace building community
radio, Friends of the Victimized Families Groups, based in Yala
province, a conflict area in Southern Thailand where there is an
ongoing conflict between the Muslim and Buddhist Thai popula-
tion.
She visited Buenos Aires in Argentina in November 2010 to
participate in the World Association of Community Radio (AMARC)
conference. Her visit was sponsored by the Sasakawa Peace
Foundation. Accompanying her to the conference was Arifin
Tenguku Cik, freelance radio broadcaster for several radio sta-
tions including 10.5 FM also based in Yala. He is also the
President of Islamic Cultural Foundation of Southern Thailand.

Q. Tell us what is so special about visiting and meeting people in
other conflicts.
Soraya. After decades of working on peace with affected women
in Southern Thailand, I got my first opportunity to travel abroad
last year. My visit to Rio in DATE was a landmark in my work for it
gave me the opportunity to meet many radio stations from differ-
ent countries. I was fascinated when I met people who ran radio
stations in East Timor. I learned from them that their community
radios played an active role in peace building. In particular I
learned how radio can address ideas from one community and
shared with other communities. In East Timor there are local
radio stations working to bring ideas across fifty different
communities and they did this by building a radio community
network. This realization was very exciting and I want to replicate
it in my area. The idea of a network to develop solidarity is very
useful for Southern Thailand where we have hundreds of
established community radios but we also face various issues in
the development. A network will help the radio stations to learn
more from each other.
In 2010 I traveled to Japan and also learned the same thing. My
visit to Kobe gave me the opportunity to discuss the role of radio
during disasters and brought me new ideas. I learned how FM
Wai Wai (http://www.tcc117.org/fmyy/en/index.html) steadily aired
broadcasts to the community during the Kobe earthquake in 2004
and played a crucial role to help people to evacuate to safety,
find their loved ones and keep up their spirits. The radio station
also broadcast disaster relief instructions in the languages of the
different minorities living in Kobe because they did not speak
Japanese. The radio can save lives in this way. I took all these
ideas back home and I am proud to report that I used this lesson
to develop a new disaster program on my own community radio
which worked wonderfully during last October's devastating
floods in Southern Thailand. My radio broadcasters worked with
the leading radio and online news organization, Deep South
Watch, which became an information centre during the crisis.
We worked together to issue reports to mainstream radio about
the affected villages and also to answer questions and provide
help in Malayu language to the local people. We were so suc-
cessful in drawing public awareness to the plight of flood
affected communities through radio reports and photo exhibi-
tions taken by us that we raised awareness in Bangkok where
the mainstream press had not bothered to focus on our situation.
A major achievement for us was on November 14th, when
Thailand's deputy prime minister visited the village Datuk,
located in Pattani province to see for himself the damage
the floods had caused. This really brought attention to our
problems.