Balkan-Arab Exchange Platform: Enlightening hidden passes: the reality of cultural mobilities between Balkans, Europe and the Arab world (8-9 May 2014), Zagreb (Croatia)

The Roberto Cimetta Fund (RCF) provides its expertise to develop Euro-Arab relations that directly benefits local artists working at international level. 

With the support of the Croatian Ministry of Culture, the City of Zagreb, the Central European Initiative, the Anna Lindh Foundation and Kultura Nova Foundation, the Roberto Cimetta Fund organised an exchange platform entitled “Enlightening hidden passes: the reality of cultural mobilities between the Balkans, Europe and the Arab world”. The meeting was held at POGON, Zagreb Centre for Independent Culture and Youth, on the 8th and 9th May 2014.

Executive summary report:

The Roberto Cimetta Fund aims to reduce obstacles to the internationalisation of artistic practice particularly for artists from the Arab world and the Balkans. Following the turmoil in the Balkan region and the enclosure that resulted as well as the uprisings in the Arab world it’s important to support artists in their to-be-developed networks to foster artistic exchange. The meeting in Zagreb was the second meeting to group together artists and cultural operators from both regions in order to allow for them to meet, to understand common cultural ties and concerns, and initiate cooperation. The meeting was able to group together 87 participants from 8 Arab countries and 9 Central European Initiative countries as well as Turkey, France, Spain, Portugal, Malta and Greece. The major points of the programme were to allow everyone to present their opinions and practice relating to networking, exchange, models of cooperation, EU funding, advocacy and regional cooperation. The main recommendations consisted in: advocating for funding for individuals alongside legal organisations, diversifying types of funding that can be more adapted to current artistic practice, continuing to advocate for more mobility that creates valuable opportunities for development, innovation, creation, advocating for freedom of expression, encouraging more regional interaction between artists and academia, artists and journalists, artists and entrepreneurs, peer-to-peer learning and exchange, improve skills in project management for international collaborations. The participants complained about the lack of information on mobility opportunities in their regions and suggested to mutually use their own organisations to relay the information.

All the participants could attend. Many were travelling for the first time from the Arab world to a Balkan country. The discussions were truly inspiring and many concrete suggestions and outcomes have resulted from the debates. Ferdinand Richard, Chair of the Roberto Cimetta Fund drew the following conclusions: he encouraged the participants to be confident in their work. All the artists and cultural operators should be proud of what they are doing even if the conditions of work are sometimes strenuous. He encouraged them to continue developing exchanges in a multilateral way, through clusters and to develop models of cooperation that they should promote and share. Although some countries are going through a crisis others are on the contrary in a period of extensive development, so it is important when developing international exchange to consider crisis as a form of transition. Grassroots organisations working in the cultural and arts spheres should continue to develop alliances with other sectors such as the educational field, universities, environmental or social organisations, since culture is a transversal phenomenon and such alliances will strengthen the cultural impact of our work. International exchanges should be developed with the rest of the world not in traditional bilateral routes (the world is changing) but with other countries who are waiting to cooperate with the Arab world and with the Balkans. Political responsibility should be the lot of every citizen including artists and cultural operators. It is therefore important to develop ones work bearing in mind the political significance it may have and keeping track of how it can be communicated or interpreted in the political sphere and how it can best have an impact. Finally, Ferdinand Richard invited the participants to continue working together through the RCF’s Wych Forum which is already online and which will be developed in the next months.