Peacebuilding and the Arts

The Distinct Power of Arts to Transform Conflict

Tokay Tomah singing

Tokay Tomah, a Liberian singer and dancer, defies ongoing violence and supports movements for peace.

A performance artist with white makeup on their face

In Peru, Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani opens doors for witnessing, truth-telling, healing, and enacting transitional justice in the aftermath of violent conflict.

Two girls with scarves on their heads hold oboes and laugh together

The Afghanistan National Institute of Music supports girls' leadership while preserving cultural heritage and building inter-ethnic trust.

A performance artists moving around on a white square

The Lamenting Forest performance confronts environmental exploitation and community devastation in Indonesia.

Humanity dignifies, restores and re-imagines itself through creating, performing, preserving and revising its cultural and artistic life.

In the face of violent conflict and related challenges — including environmental degradation, inequality, authoritarianism, forced migration and marginalization — cultural heritage, cultural practices and  the arts can be crafted to:

  • Bring attention to urgent concerns and difficult truths.
  • Draw on local sources of strength, meaning, knowledge and resilience.
  • Address conflicts.
  • Facilitate communication and cultivate empathy, with or without shared language.
  • Reconcile former enemies and work toward trust.
  • Resist oppression and violations of human rights.
  • Memorialize the past and support trauma healing in ways that revitalize.
  • Imagine and give substance to a more vibrant, less violent, more rights-respecting and peaceful future.

Aesthetic experiences and cultural practices reveal values and ethical commitments, enrich learning by linking thoughts with senses and emotions, and invite new ways to make meaning by reflecting on and experimenting with paradox and complexity.

Professor Rajesh Sampath speaking in front of wood sectional

Rajesh Sampath, Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights and Social Change, talks about the power of art to transform conflict (1:34).