Arts and Reconciliation

Since time began artists have produced work about conflict and peace.  However the last two decades has seen a more purposeful and strategic application and integration of the arts into peace-building work (Shank & Schirch 2008).  Advocates, such as the influential peace activist and scholar Jean Paul Lederach, argue that the art of the creative process is crucial to responding to deep-rooted conflict and building social change (2005).

This section of the website shares research in progress – project profiles, interviews and resources – that explore the restorative and transformative potential of the arts to support conflict-affected communities to reconcile, to heal the past and to re-build a future. Investigating artist-led projects and initiatives that harness the arts or that use arts based methods, it examines how artists, arts organisers, practitioners and the participants and audiences of arts initiatives conceptualise reconciliation, how they define the contribution of the arts to reconciliation and peace-building, how they differentiate between different forms of artistic work and how its impact is measured and evaluated. It also shares information about the artistic commissions and projects undertaken in the Western Balkans as part of this research. The aim is to move beyond advocating the value and contribution of the arts and to develop a richer articulation of how the arts function within reconciliation processes (Shank & Schirch 2008).

While some artists and arts practitioners embrace the notion of reconciliation, others reject, resist or problematise the concept.  Some because they see reconciliation agendas as undermining the pursuit of justice and truth.  Others because they understand the political push for reconciliation as being driven by the imposed agendas of powerful institutions and political interests rather than rooted in a response that listens to the lived reality, needs and priorities of the communities affected by violence and conflict.  Others still seek to reclaim the concept of reconciliation, re-framing it as a creative, unpredictable, emergent process synonymous with artistic approaches. This research seeks to explore these multiple conceptions of reconciliation while examining the role of the arts in its processes.

‘Arts should not be about replaying the obvious division. Some of these arts projects in trying to bring people together just replay what the assumed division is…’ research interview with Professor James Thompson, Manchester University