Building connection one heart at a time
Building connection one heart at a time

Language of Art and People Who Create It

Pick Keobandith on culture and preservation of peace
01.03.2022
Language of Art and People Who Create It

The Peace 50 regularly hosts online and offline meetings to share ideas, experience, and inspiration in the matters of preserving peace. The Global Women Media journalists interview members of the community several times a year and publish stories about their new projects and plans. Pick Keobandith, expert in art and cultural diplomacy, summed up the results of her year 2021.

Pick_0T.jpg Pick Keobandith
PhD in Art History, expert in art and cultural diplomacy, founder and director of Inspiring Culture

Pick Keobandith is a person driven by a passion for art and culture, a need to bring people together and build bridges among countries. Despite the fact that the pandemic and self-isolation have prevented her from live communication, which is so important for cultural diplomacy, the expert has maintained her purposefulness and desire to do more.

In her interview with the Global Women Media, Pick Keobandith shared her vision of the power of art and culture in preserving peace.

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You travel a lot and often go on business trips to different countries. How has the world changed over the two years of the pandemic?

– This is a good and ambitious question. In my opinion, the pandemic has made even more tangible the fact that we are all living on the same planet. We acquired painful and challenging but very valuable experience. We saw that, to address global threats, people need solidarity, responsibility, and collaboration.

However, we still see everyday examples of people reacting in an opposite way. Some people perceived the self-isolation period not as a security measure but as a call to ‘build walls’ and advocate for selfish inward centred reactions. They immersed themselves in negative thoughts. The limitation of live social contacts was a necessary step for the preservation of the world. However, it is important to make sure that people do not distance themselves from one another spiritually and emotionally.

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I sincerely believe that this crisis will accelerate the understanding of the need to establish bridges, develop solidarity, and make this world a better place.

In my opinion, culture and art are essential to strengthen these communication bridges among people from different countries. It makes it possible for representatives of different cultures to communicate with one another without words and appeal to the deeper levels of understanding: feelings and the subconscious. I am convinced that art and culture can embody the best sides of humanity that we should use for the benefit of society and for the same of shaping a better future.

I have no crystal ball but I can witness extremely worrying signals without it. History has proven that the worst scenarios can happen if we do not approach consciously our deeds and the surrounding situation. However, I also see every day so many positive role models of collaboration and support that people share with one another. Such examples feed me with energy and optimism.

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All people in the world are very different. What, in your opinion, brings them together? What can they learn from one another?

– “We share the same biology, regardless of ideology”, sings Sting in his song Russians. We are all the same in terms of having exactly the same basic physiological and psychological needs. We just express them in an incredible variety of ways. Culture, art, and education help us see these differences as opportunities and not as threats.

All people are different but that is not a reason to isolate ourselves from one another. That is much more about the opportunity to get to know one another better, to expand the horizons of our understanding of the world and humanity.

Thanks to the evolution of our world and technological progress, today, every citizen has the access to an entire ‘kaleidoscope’ of cultures and influences. The more we learn, the broader our consciousness becomes. Getting to know something new always has an imprint on our perception of the world and attitude towards certain things.

I understand that such amounts of information and its variety can be overwhelming for many people. We do not lack the resources and tools to understand one another. We need to see the world in a more volumetric way and not limit ourselves with only our beliefs and value systems. We must open our hearts and minds to everything new. It is very interesting.

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We mustn’t be afraid of loving those who are unlike us.

For example, people from Russia differ from Europeans in their perception of the world and their attitude to life. I once held an event at the Russian House in Brussels. I invited my friends from Russia. I was happy that I had the opportunity to build that intercultural bridge based on live communication. However, at some point, I noticed that some Belgians were sceptical about the idea of inviting Russians: not everyone understood how to build a dialogue with people who were quite different from them. However, the meeting was wonderful with its very sincere, warm, and open communication. We can say that the pragmatic Europeans turned out to be inspired and pleasantly impressed by the breadth of the Russian soul.

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That meeting was especially valuable thanks to the fact that it brought together not only Russia and Belgium. The Chinese, Australians, the English, the French, and representatives of other countries took part in the event as well. We all genuinely enjoyed communicating. We discussed culture and art and learned a lot about the Russian mentality. That was a bright example of the power of cultural diplomacy.

I am happy that the administration of the Russian House and the event participants trusted me. They did not ‘build the wall’ but entered into an open dialogue.

My colleagues from the Peace 50 community appreciated my work. Journalists Ianina Cozari, Louisa Burnett-Hall and Barbara Dietrich published articles about the event. I didn’t even ask them: they make that from their pure hearts.

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– What do you like most about the city you live in?

– Brussels is the capital of a multi-lingual and multi-cultural country with its three official languages (Dutch, French, and German). It is also the capital of the European Union which counts 26 countries. It hosts 184 diplomatic representations and hundreds of lobbies and NGOs.

I am not sure whether there is a more multicultural city in the world. It is a city inhabited by people who are very open and easy-going. They are very happy and curious to talk with tourists from other countries and cities.

I infinitely love the city I live in. This is a fantastic place to meet the world and a good base camp from which you can travel the planet comfortably.

At the same time, I enjoyed visiting other cities and countries. For example, some of my favourite places to travel to are Sochi and Saint Petersburg. During the pandemic, I had to limit my travels around the world. However, I am happy that I managed to visit these cities previously. I discovered a wonderful and interesting world. I would love to continue travelling.

I like to visit countries not through guided tours, but by exploring them on my own: choosing the places and events that interest me and talking to everyone whom I meet. It allows me to see real countries, not pictures from books or the net.

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What is the ‘recipe’ for effective international or intercultural collaboration? What principles should be the basis of that collaboration?

– I guess the most important thing in international collaboration is about live dialogue and the aspiration to approach the other party with the intention to learn from them and to discover what they would like to learn from you. Mutual respect, interest, and desire to give rather than take are important for any communication, including an international one.

Too often, countries consider cultural diplomacy as a one-sided effort to project or even impose their image.  Of course, each country should share its traditions. However, true collaboration means working together. Cultural diplomacy requires more serious and deep work and more granular bilateral exchanges.

Peace is a deep and multi-faceted notion. What does it mean to you? 

– For me, peace and culture are interconnected. Peace 50 community is a source of inspiration for me. It helps me meet very interesting individuals worldwide and develop joint cultural projects.

The community’s work is based on bilateral exchanges, on the mutual desire to listen to one another and understand the essence of things. I believe, that is the very start of deep and multi-faceted peace.

The value of the group is directly dependent on the quality of its members. So far, I have not been disappointed by people joining the Peace 50 community. The community consists of so different but wonderful women committed to the preservation of peace. I am happy that they not only discuss that but undertake very concrete projects in their fields of activity.

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– What projects do you dream to carry out in the future? What is your global mission?

– I have planned many projects of exhibitions, which I hope to be able to complete in the near future. One of them is related to a festival in Brussels, which would be dedicated to Russian culture viewed through contemporary art and literature. I would very much like that project to go beyond the Russian House and scale up. Probably, we will manage to cover the whole city and use different locations. If the pandemic situation allows us to do so, we will certainly carry out the festival next year. I hope to attract the participants of the Peace 50 community to that event. That will most likely be interesting to them. 

I have recently become an advisor for the Suzhou Contemporary Art Biennial. Thanks to that position, I am planning to go to China in 2022. I am also Editor-in-Chief of a new online publication called Target Global. It is established as a cultural bridge between South East Asia and the world.

Of course, I continue to work on projects that I started a long time ago with sincere inspiration. One of my favourites is ‘From Vrubel to Malevich’. I am sure that this initiative will grow into something beautiful, very valuable, and interesting for society.

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I have many projects and they are all somehow related to art and international cooperation. These are two sides that complement each other.

In my opinion, contemporary art is a very powerful and effective means of international communication. It not only conveys the thoughts of an author by appealing to the feelings and emotions of his or her audience. Importantly, contemporary art touches upon today’s issues of concern and shows us what is going on in different countries at the present time.

In today’s world, people started to be increasingly interested in enjoying art on the net. However, I would very much like to remind them of the value of personal interaction, of real visual contact, not that through a monitor.

Of course, it is wonderful that the internet gives us so many opportunities to learn about art and culture in other countries. However, I would advise people to always find ways to see the works that they liked on screen in real life. I recommend them to interact with the people of the country that has impressed them with its sights, traditions, and habits. Believe me! That will give you an indescribable experience!

In my opinion, we need humanity because technology is not all that we have.

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– What inspires you?

– At the very beginning of my career, I drew incredible inspiration from fine art and literature. I still love them. However, over time, I’ve realised that I have even more inspiration from the people who create that art.

I have been fortunate enough to personally meet great artists and musicians who delight me with their talents and sincerity. Every day, I learn something new from the people I meet in my life.

For example, I follow the work of the internationally renowned conductor Valery Gergiev with great enthusiasm. Thanks to my work and social activities, I have met him many times in Saint Petersburg and in Crimea. Once I was offered tickets for his concert and I gave up everything I had to do to go to that event. I think I will definitely write an article about him.

The writer Chansoon Park is another bright example. The Korean Cultural Centre organised her lecture in Brussels and it was a pleasure for me to attend it. Chansoon Park is about 70 years old but she has an amazing story to tell about travelling. I am very curious about her as a person. I can’t help but admire her courage and sincerity.

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– What would you wish people of the world?

– I wish everyone to nurture the best human qualities: openness, sincerity, generosity, curiosity, and empathy. Let’s take care of the world, shape a better future, and advocate for change and equality. Love yourself and others.

Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Gusakova, Nikolay Gavrilov, Global Women Media news agency

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov

Photos are provided by the article's heroine from her personal archive


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