THIS EVENT WAS RECORDED AS A LIVE BROADCAST ON 20 MARCH 2023.
Art is often seen as a medium for self-expression, a place for artists and creatives to share their personal experiences, and so offers a unique opportunity for cultural exchange. Yet, as we live in increasingly multi-cultural societies, artistic influences and sources are becoming more various and plural – so the urgent question is how do we navigate celebrating other cultures without crossing the line of cultural appropriation? What is the definition of ‘high culture’ in the UK – and is it changing? And how do we ensure artistic work is celebrated and valued equally, regardless of its cultural origins?
This event brings together speakers from across the Arts to discuss how to make space for cultural exchange in artistic expression, along with the nuances, challenges and rewards this may bring. Our discussion will explore a variety of art forms, from visual pieces to music and literature.
The Aspen Institute UK, in partnership with the Khalili Foundation, explore these pertinent questions. It is part of the wider World Festival of Cultural Diversity which, in association with UNESCO, is bringing together various intellectual and creative initiatives in collective celebration of our world’s cultures.
ON THE PANEL:
Syima Aslam – Syima is the founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF), which she established in 2014. A 10-day literary and cultural celebration, BLF welcomes more than 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually and is celebrated as the most socio-economically and ethnically diverse literary festival in the UK. Under Syima’s directorship, BLF has made a significant impact on the country’s literary landscape, hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.
Dr Gus Casely-Hayford, OBE – Gus is the inaugural Director of V&A East and Professor of Practice at SOAS, University of London (where he has also been awarded an Honorary Fellowship). Formerly Executive Director of Arts Strategy, Arts Council England, and Ex-Director of the Institute of International Contemporary Art, he has offered leadership to both large and medium scale organizations, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. In 2005, Gus organized the biggest celebration of Africa ever hosted in Britain, when more than 150 organizations put on over 1000 exhibitions and events. He has served on the boards of many cultural institutions, including the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery, and is a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and Cultural Fellow of King’s College London. Gus was awarded an OBE in 2018.
Freddie Opoku Addaie – Freddie is Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella Festival (London, UK). A critically acclaimed choreographer, dancer, curator and lecturer, he is the recipient of many choreographic awards and commissions. East London-born, his Ghanaian heritage has informed his artistic practices. Freddie is also founder of SystemsLAB, a platform responding to 21st century diverse artistic needs, and a regular speaker on industry panels both in the UK and internationally.
Soheila Sokhanvari – Soheila is an Iranian-born artist whose multidisciplinary work weaves layers of political histories with bizarre, mysterious, and often humorous narratives that she leaves open to viewers to complete. Since 2013, Soheila has been a studio artist at Wysing Arts Centre. She received her BA in Art History and Fine Arts from Anglia Ruskin University in 2005, a postgraduate diploma in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2006 and an MFA from Goldsmiths College in 2011. She has recently been the recipient of the Derek Hill Foundation Scholarship at British School at Rome (Oct-Dec 2018) and has exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Roger Wilson – Roger is the Director of Operations of Black Lives in Music (BLIM). He has many years of experience on both sides of the stage as musician, educator, tour manager and administrator. Conservatoire trained, he has worked extensively in the commercial, jazz and classical sector with a wide range of artists from Lesley Garett and Bryn Terfel to James Brown and Quincey Jones. He has also played in some of London’s most successful music theatre productions. As an instrumental teacher and lecturer, Roger has worked throughout the UK music education sector at all levels. In recent years, he has been dedicated in his support for the professional development of aspiring young jazz musicians.
Waqās Ahmed – Waqās is Executive Director of the Khalili Foundation, Editor of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (20th Anniversary book 2021), and Curator of the World Festival of Cultural Diversity. He was previously a diplomatic journalist and publisher, namely as editor of the Official Reports for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (2011-2015) and editor of Holy Makkah (FIRST 2017). He is now Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge, Visiting Fellow at the Open University Business School and Assistant Professor at the London Interdisciplinary School. Waqās is also author of the internationally acclaimed book The Polymath (Wiley 2019) and has either been published by or featured in the Times, the Financial Times, the BBC, Forbes, and The Lancet.