Inspired by a success of the Arterial, the Pan-African conference on vitalizing African cultural assets, co-organized by Hivos in 2007, that generated a powerful, effective and substantially funded platform - Hivos and OSI are initiating in 2008 an intensive and interactive conference among the stakeholders of the Asian arts and culture sector.
This conference will, for the first time, bring together about 80 stakeholders from autonomous arts and culture sectors and civil society groups. The conference will include artists, cultural theorists and activists, and national and international donor agencies active in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Tajikistan) South and South-East Asia (India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka).
The aim of the conference is to firstly, generate new initiatives for strengthening the arts and culture sector in these regions of Asia. Secondly, it will articulate and disseminate productive strategies of cultural activism and work towards a building of a civil society in Asia that would advance pluralism, participation, equality and justice.
The participants have been chosen from diverse cultural, socio-economic and political contexts. Cultural practitioners from Central Asia struggle with the Soviet cultural inheritance and the contingencies of the post-Soviet independent states, with weak institutions, competing ideological projects, mass impoverishment and cultural isolation despite the penetration of global cultural products. The Indian counterparts work in a parliamentary democracy with huge regional differences and deeply ingrained inequalities despite the post-industrial boom, the growing participation in a global economy and the emergence of a middle class. Cultural production in Sri Lanka is marked by a protracted civil war. In Indonesia, a fragile democratic order is being tested by enormous cultural differences, socioeconomic stratification and radical politics inspired by religion.
In all of these countries, globalization affects cultural production in a contradictory fashion, creating new pressures as well as opportunities; it weakens and appropriates traditional cultural modes of expression, accelerates the movement of people, capital, goods, services, images and ideas. Migration challenges the notions of stable and coherent communities, weakens traditions, causes new frictions but also brings about enriching influences and additional resources. Culture as a way of life, as a conglomerate of narratives of self-representation and expressions of identity, and as a shared practice succumbs either to the notion of culture as a business, a market, a product subdued by consumption; or to the idea of culture as a political mechanism, a source of intolerance and an instrument of manipulation and conformity. The conference will explore both challenges and opportunities for cultural production and expression in the present times.
In most parts of the contemporary world civil society networks have begun to play a crucial role in facilitating both production and dissemination of a variety of cultural forms. Networks in the arts and culture sector have created platforms for the interaction of practitioners and mediated between the producer, market and the state. This conference hopes to sharpen the understanding of differences and commonalities among cultural actors in various Asian societies, clarify needs and priorities, identify obstacles and difficulties, share effective solutions, enhance networks, provide additional resources and inspiration, and generate new joint initiatives.
Hopefully the conference will result in the formation of an active platform that would enhance reflection, exchange and cooperation in the fields of capacity building, strategy and lobby for culture which, on a longer term would strengthen cultural sector and vitalize the civil society in Central And South and South East Asia.
In addition, the conference will motivate the funding bodies from within and outside Asia, and help realign their priorities and programs. Asian media will be involved in order to highlight the cultural dimension of civil society development in Asia.
Hopefully the conference will result in the formation of an active platform that would enhance reflection, exchange and cooperation in the fields of capacity building, strategy and lobby for culture, which would in the long term strengthen cultural sector and vitalize the civil society in Central and South-West Asia.
In addition, the conference will motivate the funding bodies from within and outside Asia, and help realign their priorities and programs. The Asian media will be involved in order to highlight the cultural dimension of civil society development in Asia.
This three-day conference will address a specific topic in the morning plenary session and further explore the same in the afternoon parallel workshops. This will be followed by dinner and a cultural program on each of the three days. We envisage focusing on the following main topics:
Contemporary artistic creativity and cultural industries: Inherited typology of cultural institutions and emerging innovative models of production, distribution and programming. Grass root, bottom-up initiatives and partnerships. Traditional craftsmanship and iconoclastic practices. Exchange, cooperation, solidarity and improvement of creative circumstances and opportunities. Tourism as a boosting factor and as a restraining force. Links with cultural industries: entrepreneurial breakthrough or manipulative and exploitative pressures, such as commercialization.
Sustainability of the cultural infrastructure: Transversal linkages of cultural organizations and initiatives towards community, education, public health, tourism and other areas. Legal frameworks in which cultural organizations operate. Ideological framing of culture, political appropriation, representation, repression and neglect. Precarious funding, donor pressures, autonomy and institutional development. Creativity and entrepreneurship. Audience development, emerging markets, intermediary and support agencies and the dialectic of the local and the global.
Articulation of cultural policies & advocacy through networking, collaboration, partnership, consortia, alliances. Enlargement of the support base, synergy of stakeholders. Dialogue with public authorities, the business sector and civil society. Interdependence of artistic creativity, cultural heritage and cultural industries. Watchdog, advocacy and pressure platforms.Envisaged workshop topics:
Networks, consortia, partnerships; linkage with Diaspora communities, rural communities and their cultural practices; political pressures, restrictions and threats; cultural production in impoverished societies, transition processes, conflict and post-conflict recovery; healing and reconciliation potential of the arts; collective memory and creativity, cultural rights, funding for the arts (state, donor and corporate funding). The definitive list of workshops will be made in October 2008.