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Number 8 June 2001

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No Alliance without artists!

Michel Sauquet (France)

"I am an insignificant part of the cosmos, but I am not just anybody, and I have a role to play on this planet". One cannot say it better than Makarand Paranjape, poet and academic from India on the responsibility of an artist in today's world. Often perceived as self-centred or feather-brained, artists in fact have a serious concern - much more than we think - for the public weal. At least this holds true for those invited by Hamilton Faria and Pedro Garcia (two key persons from Brazil who handle the Artists workshop of the Alliance) for an international meeting in the month of May on the hills of Itapecerica da Serra, near São Paulo.

Hamilton and Pedro's project is an impossible task: getting sculptors, painters, poets, musicians, theatre persons, ballet dancers, academics and puppeteers to participate in the same thought process is already quite difficult. The bigger challenge however was the cultural diversity (China, India, Eastern and Western Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America). But they succeeded in identifying the problems and framing proposals and recommendations.

All this diversity -- as well as links established with various other professional sectors within the Alliance -- lends its true originality to the initiative started by Hamilton and his friends. After all, artists and writers have always been involved with the fate of their contemporaries and their planet. But being involved in collaboration with others who are so different, is quite unique. And doing it with a method is rare. At a first glance, it may seem strange for those who have a hazy notion of the word "artist", but the electronic forum that preceded the actual meeting, and the organisation of the meeting itself was one of the most challenging enterprises of the current phase of building the Alliance. A beautiful example of appropriating collective processes.

The four days at Itapecerica da Serra -- a place of astonishing happenings and moments of collective creation -- were an occasion to collectively define how art is an indispensable element for rethinking tomorrow's world.

Art, indispensable to rethink tomorrow's world

We know that it is a precious means of sensitising the public on issues related to society provided it is free from manipulations through different forms of economic or totalitarian power. Some of the participants at the meeting were artists and poets recognised in their country and others were lesser known. There is yet more to be done in order to invite artists acclaimed by the media to join the Alliance's initiative.

In Brazil, India and Europe, art is a tool for local action and many participants through the expression of their own experience proved its efficiency: theatre to help living and accepting street children, music to re-enchant poor localities, writing workshops to formulate an identity, sculpture to reconstruct, poetry to express struggle, theatre direction to empower poor communities etc.

To bring out the artist within

At the psychological and behavioural level, art is a means of achieving progress and personal harmony and this not reserved exclusively for the elite. At Itapecerica da Serra, the idea that all men and women are by nature artists came up quite frequently. The other idea was that artists who declare themselves as professionals must help each one to bring out the artist within.

Finally, at the end of this meeting, I felt that art is an essential space of responsibility. In the same way as a researcher cannot be asked to be constantly involved in the application of his research, one cannot expect an artist to spend all his time in creating "useful" work. But the artist like the scientist must not think that the induced effects of this work are not his business. He must remember that his position or repute confers him with many possibilities of action. To be an acclaimed artist and not speak up on current issues is an attitude frequently practised by some and we strongly denounced this attitude at Itapecerica.

This exchange, after being completed and strengthened, has come up with a set of suggestions (possibly consistent ones). These suggestions will also take into account the main themes discussed during the electronic forum before the meeting in Brazil. Some of them are: to assert the social responsibility of the artist; to strengthen cultural identities in a context of internationalisation; to stimulate cultural presence in public space; to construct a culture of peace; to strengthen intercultural exchange between continents.

I have not talked about the collective exultation, unforeseen flights and the magic of some personal encounters so difficult to convey. Hats off to the young artists of the modest neighbourhood in the district of Itapecerica da Serra who were mobilised for the event as a permanent presence during the meeting, to the musicians, dancers who lent a special colour to the inaugural evening's (May, 1 at São Paulo) performance of the Drums of Peace.

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The Drums of Peace, an intercultural symphony for peace

From 21 to 24 June, during the five continental meetings of the Alliance (in Tanzania, Equator, India, Lebanon and Romania), a symbolic act will be taking place in these and several other countries. Drums are instruments which have often conjured up, from past times, the war cry; but ancient peoples also made them resound to keep away illness and bad luck. With the Alliance, we would like the drums to be heard everywhere to incite actions in favour of a peace culture.

In Brazil, a renowned country of music, the initiative of the drums of peace has taken on a particular emphasis. It was announced on May 1st at the theatre of Sesc1 de Vila Mariana at São Paulo by a musical and choreographic celebration bringing together 170 people, amongst others, artists from several regions of the country: the Bahian singer Gereba, the Birimbaus of Morro de Querosene orchestra, the percussionists and dancers of Tambour de Criola of Maranhão, and many others, Cicincho, Bene Fonteles, João das Neves, as well as the participants at the world meeting of the Alliance artists. This celebration will be broadcast on the São Paulo TV cultural channel on June 9th and 10th and will be able to be seen by any supporter on the Web from the site (Programa Viola minha Viola).

Otherwise, from June 21 to 24, the different regional meeting places will be put up on screens and on internet links to let world-wide supporters communicate with each other and to compose together, through sound and image, a kind of great intercultural symphony for peace.

Everybody that wants to know more or to participate in the operation "Drums of Peace" with the Alliance are invited to consult the site ( or to contact the animation's office "Drums of Peace"2, Martí Olivella & Joan Ramón Gordo (

Isis de Palma (Brazil)

1. Serviço Social do Comércio de São Paulo, one of the partners of the operation Drums of Peace, with the Alliance, the São Paulo group of the Alliance, the association Imagens Educacão, and many other structures like Pólis, Ágora em Defesa do Eleitor e da Democracia, Ecoar, Ação da Cidadanía, Cives, etc.

2. For Brazil, the contacts are: Imagens Educação, Animação da Tambores de Paz -- Brasil -- Isis de Palma & María Zulmira Souza (

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