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Art as Cultural Diplomacy

August 2012
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Seminar Photos »

Conference Summary

The ICD was delighted to welcome a diverse group of young leaders from three different continents to London to discuss ways of deepening understanding of art as cultural diplomacy.

Friday 24th August

The first day of the forum took place at the National Liberal Club; participants began with an introductory lecture exploring the relevance of art as cultural diplomacy. Given by Hailey Woldt, her lecture was based on the idea of diverging interpretations of Opera in China and Tibet. Then, H E Amb Mauricio Rodriguez from the Colombian embassy’s lecture explained the role of the Colombian embassy in the UK, and how cultural diplomacy has helped to change the image of the nation in the eyes of the world. Swiftly after was a lecture by John Cooper on the differences in legalities in human rights in different cultures, he touched on a number of important topics, including Homosexuals embracement of art as a means of creating a cultural identity to break down barriers in society. Ribal Al-Assad, chairman of the Iman foundation talked about the role of arts and cultural in interfaith dialogue and cultural diplomacy, he expressed his belief that the arts can be a legitimate solution to solve problems between misunderstanding cultures. Following on Mr Al-Assad then took part in a lively panel discussion on the same topic, joined by guest speakers; Patti Boulaye(Ambassador For Peace), Milia Gottlieb (Film Producer), Rabbi Herschel Gluck Rabbi & Chairman of the Muslim-Jewish Forum), PotkinAzarmehr(Producer, Consultant) and The Hon. James Wharton MP (MP Stockton South). Tony Haynes had the honor of concluding the day’s lectures, on the founding of the formation of the Grand Union Orchestra and its unifying power to transcend culture borders.

Saturday 25th August

Queen Mary University was the venue for Saturday’s events, the first of which being a presentation from the formers US cultural diplomat, Ed Salazar, on Art as Cultural Diplomacy in Practice as Public Diplomacy. Specifically he focused on the role London 2012 and its role a vehicle for cultural diplomacy. After a short break an interaction panel discussion on the subject took place with guests Hailey Woldt, Ed Salazar, Tatyana Sehic, Oliver Gingrich, Heather Blake and Norma Wright. Representing the International Association of Music Information Centres, An-Heleen De Greef, discussed how music encourages collaborations and the exchange of ideas, experiences and skills, and plays an active role in international relations. Participants were then treated to a presentation of multimedia and digital art, Oliver Gingrich used a wide array of pictures, videos and audio to display the potential for digital art in shaping culture. After the conclusion of that presentation, Tatyana Sehic, a consultant from the lower Austrian government, followed this up with a lecture on another important media for cultural exchange, dance. Her insightful lecture raised the idea despite being centuries old, still being used as a platform for soft power today. Slightly later than scheduled, Mia Morris OBE gave her presentation on one of the most relevant examples of cultural diplomacy in modern Britain. Celebrating 25 years of black history month in the UK, MS Morris helped explain the invaluable role of the initiative in shaping identity and broadening understanding in communities. Rounding off the day was a lecture on protecting cultural heritage using the case study of Londons Africa centre as a case in point for a failed attempt at cultural diplomacy.

Sunday 26th August

The final day of the conference took place at Brunel University; first to deliver their lecture was Stephan Sali, on the subject of culture as unifying power. He made many interesting points including the potential challenges in conveying the meaning of cultural artefacts. Afterwards Dr. L.P Swain, an expert on the indigenous art of western Odisha, gave a unique, first hand insight into the practices and culture of the area. Next Prof. Josh Abrams presented what he describes as, the soft power approach to London’s successful bid for the 2012 games. As well as the role the simultaneously run cultural Olympiad played, which showcased to the world the diverse culture Britain holds. Then to take a different perspective on cultural diplomacy, the Head of the Department of Culture at the Dutch Embassy in London, Jan van Weijen, lectured participants on the details of the Dutch cultural exchange plans and what their expectations were.  Justice in an Unequal world was the theme of the penultimate lecture of the conference; Lester John Holloway gave a fascinating presentation on the significance of identity, understanding our roots and what equality really means in a modern context. Finally Leanne Hoogwaerts, an MA Student of Culture Industry at the University of London, tied together the ideas of soft power and culture, specifically how museums are become transnational in attempt to cross borders in understanding.

Monday 27th August

On Monday the group was treated to the sights, sounds and smells of Europe’s biggest street festival. The participants joined over 5,000 other revellers for the second day of Notting Hill Carnival where people from all cultural backgrounds come together to celebrate Caribbean culture. They enjoyed traditional West Indian cuisine and music amongst the inspiring international atmosphere.

Seminar Speakers


Prof. John Abrams, Senior Lecturer, Department of History and Culture, University of Roehampton
Ribal Al-Assad, Chairman, Iman Foundation
Potkin Azarmehr, Producuer, Manoto T.V
Heather Blake, Director, Reporter without Borders
Oliver Gingrich, Musion Conten Consultant
Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Rabbi
Milia Gottlieb, Film Producer
Lester John Holloway, Editor, Broadcaster
Leanne Hoogwaerts, MA Student of Culture Industry at the University of London
Mia Morris OBE, Founder of Black History Month
H.E Amb. Mauricio Rodriguez, Colombian Ambassador to the UK
Ed Salazar, Cultural Diplomat
Stephen Sali, Founder, the Universal African Ancestral Alliance
Tatyana Sehic, Austrian Dancer and Cultural Diplomat
Esther Stanford-Xosei, Radio Broadcaster
Dr. L.P Swain, Lecturer of Sociology, Neelashaila College, Odisha, India
Mark Urban, BBC Journalist
Jan van Weijen, Head of Public Diplomacy at the Dutch Embassy London
Hailey Woldt, Lecturer of Cultural Diplomacy, University of Cambridge

Conference Voices:

“The problem to overcome was how to tell the story of Colombia?  How do we tell the world about our culture?  How do we change the perception of Colombia now that it has really changed?”- H.E Amb. Mauricio Rodriguez

“Cultural diplomacy is a way of building bridges.”- Jan van Weijen

“People who do not know their history are like trees without roots.”- Lester John Holloway

“Museums are national expressions of identity and patriotism.” - LeanneHoogwaerts

“Sometimes we want to transfer other culture into how we want to see and understand it but it does not work that way. That is why we have to find the way how to face that culture as it is and try to understand it in its original form.”- Stephen Sali

“Dance is an important spiritual experience and interreligious and intercultural communication facilitator.”- Tatyana Sehic

“Sport is the perfect vehicle for cultural and public diplomacy!”- Ed Salaza