UNESCO Beirut launches artistic workshops in public schools to promote intercultural dialogue between Lebanese and Syrian youth based on common cultural heritage
On 7 April 2017, UNESCO Beirut launched its project “Shared World Heritage Values for Common Grounds: An artistic approach”, in a meeting attended by more than 30 experts and teachers from public schools in Lebanon, and representatives from the World Bank and the Lebanese Ministry of Education. This project, initiated by the Culture sector at UNESCO Beirut, in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and the Lebanese National Commission for UNESCO, aims at promoting intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance among youth from Lebanon and Syria and at spreading a culture of living together, by highlighting the shared values and common cultural heritage of both countries. It is carried out within the framework of the Lebanon Municipal Services Emergency Project, a project implemented by the Lebanese Government Council for Development and Reconstruction, and funded by the World Bank.
The project will be based on a series of artistic workshops organized in 22 Lebanese public schools of 11 Union of Municipalities where Lebanese and refugee children will express themselves by drawing on canvases and boxes, on themes related to their common cultural heritage. The workshops will offer a platform where children will learn to work collectively, explore and understand each other’s culture and heritage, thus serving as an instrument to ease the tensions across different communities. The workshops will be animated by school teachers and art facilitators.
In his welcome speech, the Culture Sector Programme Officer at UNESCO Beirut, Mr Joseph Kreidi, noted that one of UNESCO’s main missions is “to promote a culture of peace, living together and mutual understanding, and to safeguard cultural heritage, both material and immaterial”. He pointed out that the project aims at raising awareness among youth on shared cultural heritage and values, thus “promoting unity in the face of diversity”. The Coordinator of UNESCO’s Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet), Ms Christiane Jeitani, praised the collaboration between the National Commission for UNESCO and UNESCO’s Regional Office in Beirut, which allows for the implementation of successful projects and activities that serve the youth, and stressed the importance of this project in “building confidence and establishing dialogue channels between Lebanese and Syrian youth based on common cultural heritage”. As to the Administrative Assistant of the Culture Sector at UNESCO Beirut, Mrs Fadia Jardak, presented the scope and the implementation arrangements of the project. She highlighted that the artistic workshops will serve as a means for Lebanese and refugee children to communicate with each other, and as an instrument to express themselves through art and creativity.
Students will be divided into two groups according to age categories: elementary school students aged between 7 to 10 years will be asked to describe their daily activities in their homelands and will be given cardboard boxes to draw “homes”. High school students aged between 15 to 17 years will write stories in which characters from different backgrounds work together to reach a common goal and achieve unity in the face of diversity. The stories will be written jointly among children of the same age group with their own handwriting, in English, French, or Arabic, under the guidance of the teachers and facilitators. The children of high schools will be asked to paint canvases to illustrate these stories. The artworks and the stories will be presented in a traveling exhibition at the World Bank Main Complex, Washington, DC, and at Beirut Souks.
During the meeting, three experts explained to school teachers the importance of art for discovering common cultural heritage and values. Dr Jean Yasmin, Assistant Professor at the Lebanese University and an expert in heritage rehabilitation, presented the different forms of heritage (material and spiritual, tangible and intangible) and the criteria and conditions for a site to be listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage. Dr Yasmin noted that “understanding heritage helps youth discover their roots and sociocultural identity”. Mrs Rita Ayoub, Programme Coordinator of the Islamo-Christian Dialogue at the University of Saint Joseph, explained the psychosocial support that school teachers need to provide to students during the workshops. Lastly, Ms Sana Chabbani, children story writer, gave teachers tips to assist students in writing and creating their stories.
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