Arts in Peacebuilding

Hyun Gyu Jeon / CONF 340 / Dec 3, 2019

Along with the other kinds of peace building theories and practices, arts have been used as one of the ways toward building peace. Arts have been used to serve as a means of making people aware of the impacts of violence, expressing their different cultures, providing opportunities to collaborate interculturally, as well as engaging and healing the traumatic experiences of victims. On the other hand, it also has had potential to serve different objectives. For example, it has been used to re-traumatize victims of conflict in some cases by propaganda.

As more and more people find the importance of arts in conflict resolution and peace building, scholars in fields of conflict and peace are contributing to the development of peace education through arts and are drawing attention to its application on a lot of cases. Now, it is not only used by the artists but also by professional practitioners in conflict resolution to capitalize on arts in building peace.

One of the cases of arts in peace building took place in Nairobi. As a result of an informal settlement of leader in Kibera, the post-election violence happened as a form of aggressive protest. Here, the art was not used as a means of peace building in the first place. People began painting and writing slogans, such as ‘Keep Peace,’ ‘Peace Wanted Alive,’ ‘Keep Peace Fellow Kenyans’ everywhere in the city. They believed that such visual expressions were more powerful than their voices. Then, a coalition government was formed at the end of February 2008, following the protest, which ended the violence. Afterwards, all the paintings and writings were left and made people be traumatized of the experience. Under the lead of artists group called Maasai Mbili in Kibera, a temporary art museum, basing the whole area, was created in the city. People came out and expressed themselves in arts for a few weeks after the end of the violence. It later found out that the drawings of the people were about what they wanted to see or do in the future, their hopes, and wishes. Such a harmonious nature was viewed through paintings and writings in the city, which gave them a feeling of value. It worked as a means of healing.

Likewise, conflicting parties can make use of arts in different ways, and it can be carried on by various groups of people, including artists and conflict resolution practitioners in the field. It is true that arts do not always work successfully in all cases of violence and it is not always applicable as well. However, it does have an impact on conflicting parties, and that it is important to note because not only artists and those professional practitioners can use it. Anyone, whether professional or not, can implement arts in cases of conflict, like the way people of Kenya dealt with violence.


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