Falling Walls - Looking Through Conflict Narratives in Cyprus 

© Sergio Vaccaro'

Falling Walls - Looking Through Conflict Narratives in Cyprus creates cultural and artistic space for ethnically defined identity groups to express themselves and ultimately improve their understanding of one another. In particular, this project brings the voice of marginalized groups into the social discourse as a means of challenging existing nationalist narratives. It is an initiative of Visual Voices, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen the capacity of youth artists affected by violent conflict to promote community dialogue and to build platforms of expression for them to share their voice through contemporary visual art.

This project embraces the values of Visual Voices, working at the intersection between strategic social art and community peacebuilding. Artists from different identity groups in Cyprus will come together for an interdisciplinary/ cross-sectoral artist in residence program that incorporates a custom peace education curriculum for social artists. These groups include Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, of Turkish descent and other minority groups. The curriculum will be complemented by applied leadership opportunities in cultural management, mentoring from well-established visual artists and studio time for the production of their final works. Apart from creating space to connect with other young artists, participants are given the opportunity to reflect on critical challenges within their communities and express alternative perspectives that embrace positive social change. Once complete, their works will be exhibited locally and internationally. In order to promote active community engagement and greater circulation of the final artworks, an AR visual storytelling application prototype will be developed to test how community members can digitally incorporate the artworks within their own surroundings.

Through their contribution to peace supporting narratives, these young artists will be directly challenging existing nationalist narratives within Cypriot society that continue to promote division and misunderstanding between communities. Their promotion of dialogue around misperceptions between identity groups will be supported by parallel events open to the public including academic roundtables, a conference and community activities. Internationally, the exhibitions will take place in other areas with a legacy of nationalist conflict narratives.

The project focuses on an arts-based approach that establishes a safe space for young artists to positively express themselves. This approach is critical to addressing ‘fractures in society’ through interdisciplinary methodologies that combine the arts, storytelling and peacebuilding. It is through supporting marginalized voices and building space for expression, that we are able to integrate different perspectives in the prevailing social narratives.