“The Big flag of Cultural Diversity” was sewn as a participative artistic intervention, made to celebrate the value of cultural diversity while fostering the community. This activity was undertaken within the frame of the conference day “DAY D: Africa as you never seen it before” promoted by the University of Lleida & Foundation Ferreruela Sanfeliu (Lleida, Spain).
By means of a performance (7 days) staged in the street (public space) an invited artist (Tere Recarens) was given the mission (by ZZZ) to activate social participation in Lleida (Spain) to sew a Flag of a minimum of 14 meters wide and 6 meters high. She had only one portable sew machine, even textiles should be collected by means of participation. How was she able to accomplish the mission?
A SYMBOL OF THE UNION OF CULTURES AND THE RESPECT FOR “THE OTHER”.
The action, connected with African tradition of using textiles as means of commemoration and communication served to promote and encourage social debate and participation around the proposed theme: cultural diversity. Citizens were invited to contribute with textiles, fabrics and clothes; also to visit the performance (which has indeed drawn the attention of passerby people) and even invited to collaborate by means of sewing (with the provided machine or bringing their own).
From the collection of textiles to the hanging of the flag, each of the steps needed to accomplish the mission helped to articulate various modes of participation (different degrees). This facilitated the addition and incorporation of a large number of people from diverse profiles among participants. In fact the action created a social space of interaction where people of diverse social backgrounds and cultures (intercultural & intergenerational) had the chance to get to know each other in a direct way. One to one contacts between participants also provided the opportunity to directly break stereotypes and cultural prejudices (personal experience). In fact, the action and the lively debate around it stimulated reflection towards the importance of respect and coexistence as well as contributed to foster the community. A joyful experience that also was a learning one.
The making of the flag was a “pretext” that allowed a “not forced” exchange, almost accidental, motivated by curiosity or the common interest on the cultural diversity issue. No only “newcomers” joined forces, also local neighbours got very engaged with the initiative, as it was considered as an opportunity to positively celebrate their social landscape. In Lleida more than 140 nationalities live together without many real opportunities for interaction. Even initial spectators ended up adding hands after solely observing for a while. In fact, the accomplishment of the “mission impossible” functioned as the perfect “melting excuse”. In other words, the activity has served as a stimulus to activate the commitment and social involvement. The action included strategies in order to be inclusive and accessible (reduced mobility and special needs).
A PUBLIC CELEBRATION OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY WHICH HAS CREATED A SPACE FOR INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE AND EXCHANGE
The effective making of the flag was the result of direct citizen participation. The mission was successfully completed, sewing a 17,50 x 7,40 meters flag in a record time, 56 hours. The flag measures are themselves an indicator of the success of the activity.
Check out the full photo gallery documenting the action under: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6IVfZzRQIwTcF9BN3g4akt5TDQ
Summary of the strategic points:
- Participation was activated with a double strategy: on one side, individual commitment on the other, by means of involving social organisations. Also students of the university of Lleida got involved, as the action was presented in the classrooms. 3 clothes collection points (spread around the city) motivated and helped to disseminate the activity.
- Working on the street, in direct contact and as a showcase for the same action.
- That action allowed to participate in different degrees and formats, allowed that different people with different “time availability”, of different ages (intergenerational) and even people of different cultural backgrounds and social contexts, could contribute while generating a space where relationships were not based on the “victim or saviour” prototypes but between “equals”.
- Participants were able to see and enjoy a tangible result that reflects the value of cultural diversity: the flag. The feeling that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts” was experienced by participants. A sense of “healthy proudness of the participant” was activated; a “return” for their collaboration was articulated and the whole experience contained a sense of “positive reward”.
Forecasts and points to consider for similar activities:
- Prepare a team of volunteers who only provide information and stimulate debate among passerbys while performing the activity (info point). In Lleida there has been moments of high request for information, and willingness to debate. So much that at some points even “disturbed” the own realisation of tasks needed to do the flag. Levels of curiosity among pedestrians were very high.
- Hire at least one professional expert responsible and coordinator of strategic tasks and techniques (technological side) to realise the activity, who effectively could solve potential technical needs arising during the process.
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