Something needs to change

If we do not enact this change, the current state of our world will force us to change in a more drastic and ugly manner. As we come to the end of 2016, I write this message to all the people in our network, hoping that wherever you are, that you are safe, that your families, loved ones, friends and neighbors are all happy, safe and in good health.

I on behalf of the IFAA family am thankful to be well and in good health. However, our world is not in good health at all, but this is something you already know, something we all cannot run away from, something which might not directly affect us, but will certainly affect our loved ones, friends or their loved ones.

Some of our IFAA family lost their loved ones this year, while some of our friends were directly affected by the Paris terror attacks, forever changing their way of life.

I have been among the lucky ones through out my travels this year, to escape 3 Terror attacks, because the attacks happened the day after or two days after my travel to these destinations. The realization of this has not deterred my work, but instead compels me to work harder and to do more in the fight against social and environmental degradation.

Do we need ugly experiences in order to change? 2016, I hope was an awakening year for humanity to take a different course, as we currently seem not awake enough to stop human suffering and to take drastic steps towards the destruction and protection of our natural environment.

As we speak, 80% of Arms dealing in the African continent is being financed not by Diamonds but by charcoal from tree cutting. Imagine the impact this has on the environment. We cannot deny the tickle down effect; the current elections of the USA and Brexit already have on a Global scale. We cannot deny the countless loss of innocent lives and global human injustices, from Aleppo to Philippines, India to Congo, Paris to Belgium, Berlin to Burkina Faso as well as social divides, War and Climate Migrations, the looming fear of others and abject poverty for billions.

How is it possible that we spend billions for celebrating Christmas and New Year while billions of people go hungry? I do not condone celebrations…but the current state of our world requires urgent attention, urgent attention from us all.

I was lost for words while reading that a Russian Ambassador to Turkey was Assassinated at an Art exhibition Opening in Ankara on the 19th of December. Today is the 20th of December 2016. I am reading this and wondering how to celebrate Christmas knowing that the cries from Aleppo have gone unnoticed by the world. That we have not done enough, that we again are getting ready for our festivities, BUSINESS or should I say PLEASURE as usual.

Does turning an Art exhibition into another killing ground, enough to grab our attention? I wrote on my Facebook page; “Sad that human injustice has lead to this kind of act turning a place of creative expression into a new killing ground.” The immediate response I got was; “Was this not performance art? Conceived, applied and executed to perfection, even if we hate and fear it.”

We read that innocent people are dying in their thousands, we like it on our social media networks, we share it and go on with our lives. Actually it goes to an extent that we no longer read. We are too occupied and there is too much information for us to handle, so we disconnect.

In Dutch there is a saying, “Als je weet, ben je medeplichtig.” If you know, you are also responsible. You and I, all of us are responsible for not doing enough because in fact we can make a difference – a positive difference.

Most of you know that we at IFAA began this journey in the fight against social and environmental degradation in 2013. We have barely scratched the surface; we have done great things but not enough, because the current state of our world requires all of us to act.

In 2015 we decided to embark on a 10-year project that will bring together 2500 participants from around the globe, from interdisciplinary artists, to policy makers business, scientists, educators, seniors, young people, basically everyone to work together through culture and collectively find solutions, sustainable solutions to the urgent global challenges.

We successfully launched the project in Paris at the Climate summit and have managed to house for a year in Paris at the Cite des Arts; Visual artists, Writers, Musicians, Performing artists and behavioral scientists in Phase 1 of the project.

Our project is supposed to and is meant to respond to the realities of our time in real time. But this costs money, a lot of money as moving artist costs money, places where they have to stay also cost money and the production of their works cost money.

This does not have to cost so much money if we are willing to temporarily house them and feed them and support them in whatever they need in order to respond through art to the urgent challenges we are facing now.

Now more than ever, we need to create critical spaces of encounter that nature deep reflection, spaces of encounter that can give birth to the new, new ways of thinking and seeing things. Spaces of encounter that connect cultures and celebrate diversity, because Art has no borders. Spaces of encounter that inspire, give hope for the future and help us to collectively find creative solutions to the current state of things!

Sithabile Mlotshwa

Artistic Director IFAA Art Platform

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