Category Archives: Peacebuilding and the Arts

Reflections on The Art of Peace

By Rachel La Due

For the past couple of months we have been throwing paint on a canvas.

There was some method to the madness, a few procedures to follow, several requirements that had to be met. These were more guiding points than stringent rules. We had a vision for the piece, as all artists do, but only a vague idea for how it would turn out.

For the past couple of months myself and my two intern supervisors, Kara Wong and Daniel Orth, have been planning a four-day long symposium on Peacebuilding and the Arts.

The Art of Peace took place November 11-14th and was hosted by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The symposium provided a space for local, national, and international artists to come together and share the ways in which they have used art as a tool in conflict transformation.

For the four days of The Art of Peace we put our brushes down and enjoyed the piece we had worked so hard to produce. We gathered alongside students, faculty, and members of the greater San Diego community to view the artwork by artists from Myanmar who have documented the struggles and triumphs of their country as it transitions from military dictatorship to emerging democracy through their art. We listened to musicians from Brazil, Morocco, Israel and Japan sing together in one beautiful melody. We sang protest songs from America’s history and the South African anti-apartheid movement along with choral scholars and Women PeaceMakers. We watched youth dance across the stage in an expression of themselves and their experiences. We listened to formerly incarcerated individuals speak from their hearts and from their pain in a powerful spoken word performance. We explored ways in which poetry, performance and movement can be used as a form of peaceful protest to respond to racial injustices and police brutality. We shared with each other, learned from one another, and collaborated together to create weapons that can be used for peaceful purposes.

During these past couple of months I have learned that the power of art does not come from the end product, but is found within the process. The splattering of paint. The planning and the preparing. The wandering of communities to tell strangers we encounter about the incredible upcoming event. The meeting of new people and revisiting of old friends. The revisions of written information and then re-revisions because we were still not satisfied with the first. The result turned out to be beautiful, but the process was transformative.

For the days following The Art of Peace we took a step back to reflect on the experience. We were surprised to find our work blank. We smiled as we realized we had not actually done any of the creating, we had only just provided the canvas.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

Universal Love: Genesis at the Crossroads & Saffron Caravan

By Jessica Ciccarelli

There is something about music that when you get it just right, you can see the smiles capture a piece of the soul. It is not often the artists are having so much fun that not only the music, but the smiles become universal – touching giver and receiver alike. It was beautiful to see this true of the entire Saffron Caravan concert on November 11. I honestly cannot say who I had more fun watching, the artists or the audience, but, due to a mishap which left the lights on for the entire performance, I had the pleasure of watching the unique flavor of an audience having as much fun as the musicians.

They took us on a journey through ten compositions. We began alongside Haytham Safia on his travel home from Jerusalem in his song, “The Road,” inspired by his own homeward journey. Our musical voyage was also an emotional one as they brought us through joyous, mournful, spiritual, and prayerful pieces. Aaron Bensoussan’s made a reverent offering to God followed by Badi Assad’s own reverent offering to Mother Nature. They were exuberant performances, as each individual surrendered their ego and did the work of letting the story flow through them.

As they wound down their musical performance with the last two songs of the evening, “Pleasure” and “Longa,” I remember feeling so inspired. Their own passion and love for music and peace reminded me, and I think the audience, of how powerful this thing is that we are trying to do: Peace. It is no easy thing and they made the difficult journey so stunning to behold. Just before the last song I remember thinking, I feel like I am journeying down an old dirt road with them from Jerusalem, getting to know each of their distinct personalities, through the palate of their music. If that was not enough, they gave us one more incredible piece, so uplifting and inspiring that sitting to listen was not an option. One by one, audience members got up to dance until there were far more people dancing than sitting.

The next morning, the panel “Music as a Vehicle for Global Peacebuilding” gave the audience members the opportunity to learn, through words and stories, all the things we had glimpsed in their music. How they got into music and what brought them to Genesis at the Crossroads. From where their passion comes. Why Genesis at the Crossroads is so exceptionally different and important. So many incredible things came from this panel, but the most inspiring for me was seeing how transcendent music can be. Aaron referenced another musical event put together by Genesis at the Crossroads and said, “They spoke Hebrew and Arabic, and the only common language they had was music.” At another point Badi said, “We are all one… There is not another way. We are one.” Then adding, “I’m starting finally to see… The point in making music is not to make money… We are here in this world to fix it, to bring a little bit of light.”

We also learned how important it is for the group to feel close, connected, like family, with Haytham adding, “We fit musically, like a sister,” in reference to Badi. Each one reiterated that they felt like a family, they just fit musically. That, I think, is what made it so uniquely beautiful. When you love what you do and the people you do it with, there is no way it could be anything but inspiring.

Genesis at the Crossroads and Saffron Caravan was an overwhelming success. They touched each individual through their stirring compositions, then connected all through the emotional journey each one told. What a remarkable way to begin The Art of Peace and demonstrate that art truly has the ability to unite and the transcendent character necessary to foster peace.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.