Sometimes dealing with the concept of international cooperation seems hard and difficult to understand: a parallel dimension compared to our routine and surrounding world. Today I would like to prove the contrary, that the daily small things and habits sometimes can link us directly to the broader field of cooperation in unpredictable ways.
There are lots of associations, co-operatives, private entities who, among their ordinary activities, are willing to promote an open-minded culture and a positive attitude towards different cultural and geographical realities. Sometimes they’re closer to us than expected.
That is why I want to bring a particular story, told by a friend of mine who is carrying on an experience of intercultural cooperation. A few years ago, we studied together international cooperation, then she began to work first in the field of NGOs and then for a Theatre for Young Audiences company in Bergamo named Teatro Prova. She’s Silvia, international relations coordinator for the company and she’s taking part to an international project under the name of Tandem Shaml.
Tell me about Tandem, what’s this project about?
Tandem is an international exchange programme for cultural managers. As an international coordinator for a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) company, I’ve been part of the first step of this experience, which enabled me to get to know many different people from Europe and the Arab World engaged in culture.
Why do you think this experience can find important outcomes?
“Tandem believes that the recent cultural and social questions can be addressed through inspiring learning experiences when working with new organizations and across new localities.”
To me, this can be translated in the huge and invaluable opportunity to open up everybody’s worldviews about cultural distances and the painful clashes surrounding our lives. I would totally recommend this experience to all my colleagues for their professional and human growth: the excellent organization in leading the activities, the enthusiasm and the climate of
friendliness I could perceive in the overall stay and the inspiring stories behind the partners’ organizations were only a few aspects worth living. The program was intense but conducted with unique awareness and rare delicacy. Needless to say, this was one of the most inspiring elements for
my professional and personal growth.
Tell me something more about the experience you had in the first step of the project, when you met your partners for the first time.
The anecdote I would like to share is about my very first day in Hammamet, when I reached the residence where the 30 cultural managers were supposed to meet for the first time. On the 19th of June, on a quite warm day I got to Tunisia by plane in order to start the “Partner Forum”, the first step of the Tandem project. At my arrival, an ice-breaking activity was organized in the garden.
Before getting into the games, I had already shaken hands with young women and men from Oman, Bosnia, UK, Ukraine and Greece. The managers had arrived, the team was ready to start. One of the games consisted in sharing a hidden thing which was part of our personal experiences, something the others would not know – at least, at first glance. My paper was a memory from my childhood, something popping up in my mind just before I wrote it. Other colleagues shared curious and unique details of theirs in the same activity, we enjoyed guessing whose papers were being held in our hands and hop! In a moment, our faces and names got more familiar.
How did you feel about working in close contact with many different cultural realities and languages?
The Partner Forum was a precious meeting, an opportunity to get in touch with cultural managers working in different fields – ranging from music to theatre, dance to visual arts, language teaching to digital expression, urban development to cinema. More than that, it represents a meaningful opportunity for my personal growth as a European citizen and a cultural manager for a company dealing with the new generations. I often borrow a quotation by S. Tauscher: “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today”. That translates the feeling I have whenever adults become too shy or too fearful toward their childhood’s dreams, begin to build barriers preventing them from getting into a dialogue, communicating, expressing themselves as human beings (and citizens). Tandem brought me back to this kind of reflection, inspiring me, shedding some new light on my job experience through a constructive approach towards narrow-minded “wall-builders” and enlarging my worldviews.
And now, what comes next?
After the five days spent in Tunisia, I finally found “my Tandem”. Her name is Nada, she’s from Alexandria, Egypt and she represents Hewar Company. Hewar Company for Independent Theatre and Performing Arts aims at creating contemporary political and socio-political productions, reinforcing the position of independent theatre in the Arab region and asserting the necessity of theatre as an interactive entity capable of initiating change, breaking taboos, and providing societies with a much needed reflection. Together, we are going to initiate a theatre project on the topic of barriers and walls, entitled “Staging Walls”. Through the opportunities given by Tandem, we’d like to mix up languages and cultures, stereotypes and targets to see what happens when we confront with the issue of migration through performance and experimental theatre. After the first appointment in Sweden in October, Teatro Prova can’t wait for heading to Alexandria for the first placement. Then other placements and meetings will be there. Looking forward this marvellous and challenging experience!
Tandem Shaml is a year-long cultural exchange program that seeks to foster long term partnerships between cultural actors and their organisations from the Arab region and Europe.
Tandem Shaml – Cultural Managers Exchange Europe – Arab Region is an initiative which was developed by the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam) and MitOst (Berlin) in collaboration with Culture Resource (Arab Region). The programme is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftun (Stuttgart), the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (Abu Dhabi), Stichting DOEN (Amsterdam) and Mimeta (Norway).