'Readings in Nonviolence' features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)
Roberta Bacic spoke on Art, Conflict and Peace during a lunchtime event on 22nd September 2014 at the Verbal Arts Centre, Derry, at INNATE’s ‘Brushstrokes for Peace’ exhibition there. These notes are based on the talk she gave –
It seemed pertinent to mark International Day of Peace through INNATE, the Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education.
Since 2008 I have curated at the Verbal Arts Centre, in Derry, 31 exhibitions of arpilleras and quilts which depict the consequences of war, conflict or human rights violations. I had attended Susan Hughes’s launch of portraits in Stormont, Belfast, that depict characters from around the capital city who had, in a quiet way, contributed to peace during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was in that moment that I thought this could extend to Derry/Londonderry as over the years I had exhibited there and had met several people who met those criteria. In one of our monthly meetings we decided, as a network of a few people, to pick up the idea and develop it.
There were two big steps to undertake in this challenge: change the pattern of conflict stories told via a needle, thread and scraps of textiles and use a brush and paint instead, the other was to establish criteria to look for the women and men who could meet those criteria and get their portraits done. It was also the right moment to showcase the collection of posters designed by our coordinator Rob Fairmichael that although designed in a computer, uses the graphic art form to convey a message of either peace or the consequences of war. Workshops of portraiture and poster making were run by Susan and Rob during the time it was up. It is important to say that to set the tone of introducing art as a language to speak about Peace and War used PEACE DOVE, a textile wall hanging by Irene MacWilliam made in 1987 that speaks beyond words and breaks the cliché that a white dove symbolizes peace.
The exhibition was up from the 2nd September until the 29th and on the 22nd we met to mark International Day of Peace with three new portraits finalised by the artist. A democratic way to participate in nominating people who embody Quiet Peacemaking was set up by placing a voting box for people to nominate their candidates. INNATE will look into those and pass them on to Susan to consider when developing further her portrait project in the city. James King, one of the people who was portrayed did a brief solo performance on the day which was received with much interest and brought up questions and opened discussions on communication.
These are the ideas, concepts that I shared on the day as a way to provoke thought, find connections, and see beyond what is there and invite participants to react and act to contribute to PEACE, which goes beyond stopping war.
It seems pertinent to then remind ourselves how this relevant date came to be established and present it using the brushstrokes’ technique by putting together recent history notions that locate the day in the context of present wars and the need to stop and reflect on PEACE. At the same time looked for different art forms that have approached the topic.
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67 of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982 – 19 years before it was adopted by the UN.
Jeremy Gilley is an English actor, filmmaker and founder of the non-profit organisation Peace One Day who in the late 1990s became preoccupied with questions about the fundamental nature of humanity and the issue of peace. He decided to explore these through the medium of film, and specifically, to create a documentary following his campaign to establish an annual day of ceasefire and non-violence. It is a non-profit organisation, and in 2001 Peace One Day’s efforts were rewarded when the member states of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on 21 September – Peace Day.
Peace One Day’s objective is to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September, making it a day that is self-sustaining, an annual day of global unity, a day of intercultural cooperation on a scale that humanity has never known.
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace. This September 2014 the Secretary General of the UN said:
Today is the International Day of Peace.
Each year, on this day, the United Nations calls for a global ceasefire.
We ask combatants to put down their arms so all can breathe the air of peace.
Armed conflict causes untold grief to families, communities and entire countries.
Too many are suffering today at the brutal hands of warmongers and terrorists.
Let us all observe a minute of silence, at noon.
Let us all reflect on peace – and what it means for our human family.
A few brushstrokes of events taking place around International Day of Peace.
- Peace One Day was to make history in 2014 by taking over Goma International Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by holding a major concert headlined by five-time Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Akon. In an historic first, the airport hosted this major event expected to unite more than 50,000 people to celebrate the hope for peace on Peace Day, 21 September.
- The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has said: “We believe that art has the ability to reach across boundaries, inspiring, teaching and bringing people together.”
- The Brussels Platform, a joint initiative between the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive Office, brought a taste of Culture Night Belfast to the EU capital the same week with the aim of promoting the culture and creativity of Northern Ireland. Singers Grainne Holland and Maeve McKinnon with accompanying musicians, Brendan Mulholland, Mickey McClusky and Brian McAlpine, performed two sets of their unique blend of contemporary Irish and Scottish music to an audience of invited guests at the NI Executive Office that included MEPs and key opinion formers amongst EU representatives.
- Belfast’s biggest celebration of arts, culture and creativity took place on Friday 19th September as the city’s artistic community throws open its doors for the 6th annual Culture Night, a couple of days before Peace Day.
- The skies above Ebrington Square in Derry were ablaze with colour on Sunday 21 September, as Derry’s own squad of kite-runners launched hundreds of their original kite creations into the air.
Art, Conflict & Peace It seems impossible to mark International Day of peace without mentioning conflict and war. Arts play a crucial but under-explored role in contexts of peace and conflict. They often provide unusual and complex perspectives on situations prone to oversimplification. But they also play a key role in helping people to come to terms with a legacy of violence and contributing to peacebuilding.
The arts act as a forum for public participation in conflict and post-conflict societies.
Also as a voice if we listen to Primo Levi’s account as a survivor of the Holocaust when he says “then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man”.
Continuing with brushstrokes -
Picasso’s Guernica, created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes on 26 April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians
Picasso’s Dove of Peace
In 1949, Louis Aragon, a French poet and a member of the Communist Party, visited Picasso. He was looking for a picture for posters commemorating the Peace Conference in Paris. He liked Picasso’s lithograph depicting a dove. Picasso himself never believed that a symbol of peace should be the dove, however, he did not object to Aragon’s choice. He only said sarcastically: “The poor man! He doesn’t know anything about pigeons! And as for the gentle dove, what a myth that is! They’re very cruel. I had some here and they pecked a poor little pigeon to death because they didn’t like it. They pecked its eyes out, then pulled it to pieces. It was horrible. How’s that for a symbol of Peace?”
Despite his sarcastic remarks about the dove as a symbol of peace, Picasso was a real fighter for peace. As a witness of the civil war in his native Spain, he experienced the horrors of war firsthand.
John Lennon - Give Peace A Chance
"Give Peace a Chance" is a 1969 single by (John Lennon's) Plastic Ono Band that became an anthem of the American anti-war movement at that time.
Sting - They Dance Alone (Cueca Sola)
After 24 years on display just outside the Security Council Chamber at the United Nations, a 1955 tapestry version of Picasso’s 1937 antiwar painting “Guernica” was pulled down for renovations of the UN space where it was hanging and flown to London in 2009. Picasso commissioned the first textile versions of his own works in 1954.
Goshka Macuga, a Polish sculptor, incorporated the textile into an exhibition about the 1930s-era controversy generated by the Picasso painting. The Human Cost of the War textile exhibition, made up of arpilleras and quilts, was commissioned by the Movement for the Abolition of War and exhibited at the White Chapel Art Gallery, the Imperial War Museum and St Ethelburga’s Peace & reconciliation Centre in London, all in November 2009 to mark Day of Remembrance by showing the horrors of war. .
It came then to Derry in 2011 with associated activities organized by INNATE.
War and Peace novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, published in 1869
Poetry by Gordon Davis from Scotland
Peace is all we ask
It’s not a big task
All we want is Peace, All we want is Peace,
All we need is Peace, All we need is Peace.
Peace is all we want,
Peace is all we want
Peace is all we need,
Peace is all we need…
Oh! What a Lovely War is a 1969 musical film directed by Richard Attenborough, with a cast including Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud, John Mills, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Maggie Smith, Ian Holm, Paul Shelley, Malcolm McFee, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Nanette Newman, Edward Fox, Susannah York, John Clements, Phyllis Calvert and Maurice Roëves.
The film is based on the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!, originated by Charles Chilton as a radio play, The Long Long Trail in December 1961, and it was transferred to the stage by Gerry Raffles in partnership with Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop in 1963.