Art and Music's Role in Peacebuilding

Working with PeaceMedia has provided the opportunity to be exposed to various peacebuilding tactics. It has shown that there is a plethora of information out there and that countless individuals are working tirelessly to bring about peace and resolve conflicts. Most recently, I watched a video on an orchestra in Brazil that began allowing girls to take part. Traditionally a male dominated art, this orchestra is lead by a female maestra, and has women playing alongside men. This orchestra is a part of The World Bank's program on gender equality called Think Equal. While this particular video speaks to building gender equality rather than direct conflict resolution, it does show the positive impact that arts and music can have on communities.

I think the method of using art and music to involve the marginalized can be quite powerful. It reminds me of a small boutique called W.A.R. Chest. It is part of the Women At Risk International organization. Their mission is to provide women with protection through culturally sensitive projects. The boutique opening in Rockford, MI in 2008 was their first store and it concentrates on providing education to women and girls on sexual slavery and human trafficking. There are now stores in every state.

Art allows for expression of very complicated matters and like the music in Brazil, the W.A.R. Chest gives an outlet for expression. Art in peacebuilding and conflict resolution gives individuals and communities tools to speak for those without a voice. In class we learn about post-modernism approaches to peacebuilding. Post-modernism is the philosophy following the determinist and fatalist attitude of realism and liberalism and abandons the idea that there is one formula for peacebuilding, rather the methodology is boundless. There is no one perfect formula for enacting peace or resolving conflicts.

The music being made in Brazil and the art at the W.A.R. Chest is peacebuilding in action from within the communities and allows for expression of ideas when words aren't enough.

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Tags: Art, Bank, Brazil, Chest, Music, W.A.R., WAR, World, gender


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Comment by Mir Mubashir on May 29, 2012 at 10:25am

Oh sorry, there was indeed Courtney Simon Grohs´s paper.

And the Brandeis Uni prgramme is quite impressive.

Comment by Mir Mubashir on May 29, 2012 at 10:18am

Great post, Deborah!

I also agree with Jonathan. While there´s a plethora of arts-based activities worldwide, there needs to be more informed strategic analytical process of "strategic what, when and how" (as per Lederach) for arts-based peace work. Michael Shank and Lisa Schirch had initiated this debate in 2008, but since then I´ve not seen any academic work following up on this... or perhaps I have missed something (?).

Comment by Vinay Jain on April 4, 2012 at 8:54am

Thank you for evoking subtle human aspects. Being rational is the biggest challenge for "Irrational Man". Even logic-based scientific methods offer appeal in range of materialism – amenities, automations, robotics, etc. And, intuition-based knowledge is innovative and inductive, having Kingsley appeal and used by politicians, saints and inventors.

But, that is reflected in poetry, music, and art, is born of Feeling, and closest to Reality; called ‘No Knowledge’ in Chinese philosophy, or we may say X-factor!

Comment by Jonathan White on April 2, 2012 at 11:17am

Thanks for this post. It's great to see arts-based approaches being given greater emphasis within the peacebuilding community, and international development community at large. It strikes me that while many organizations embrace arts-based approaches, there is a need to more clearly identify best practices for design, monitoring and evaluation: under what conditions does music work best (contextual, conflictual, systemic)? What do we need to consider differently when designing arts-based projects as opposed to the traditional peacebuilding tools (capacity development, mediation, etc.)?

Comment by Wendy Sternberg, MD on April 1, 2012 at 2:48pm

Please take a look at Genesis at the Crossroads and Saffron Caravan - this is our whole mission to create cross-cultural bridges using the neutral and creative space of the arts.  We sustain those bridges through education and deepen them with humanitarian initiatives...


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