Kenya RPCV Forges Peace through Art
By Erica Burman on Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Art. Post-conflict settings. At first thought the two don’t seem to go together. However MaryBeth Morand, a humanitarian relief worker for the past twenty-five years, believes that the arts are a powerful way to bring groups together–and that there is a need to train arts facilitators to do this with sensitivity and intelligence. For this reason, she is helping to pioneer a Masters of Arts program in Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding (EXA-CT) at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. The program will enable students how to use the arts to help individuals and communities to approach conflicts and maintain peace.
Morand served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya from 1985-87, but prior to that she earned a BA in Studio Art. Her Peace Corps experience took her life in a new direction and she has spent most of her career working for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and international relief NGOs. In the 90s she was posted with the UNHCR in Somalia, Bosnia and Azerbaijan during the height of those conflicts.
“I learned a lot about conflict responses and how fragile peaces are once they are declared,” says Morand. In 2004 and 2005, she took a hiatus from UNHCR and was working for Mercy Corps as an emergency responder in Darfur. In a displaced persons camp there she saw an arts project bring people together to reestablish their community and resource livelihood solutions independent of foreign aid. “I realized that the arts can empower individuals and communities and help people co-exist,” says Morand. Arts projects, she learned, need to be facilitated with a sensitivity and understanding of the participant’s cultural, political and economic contexts. When carried out correctly, there is a “convergence of the humanitarian ethos of inclusive community based assessments, ‘do no harm,’ root cause analysis and evaluated project design with effective community arts facilitation.”
Currently Morand is a doctoral candidate in Expressive Arts Therapy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland and the Program Director for their new MA program: Expressive Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding (EXA-CT). The EXA-CT MA program was conceived in collaboration with two of her fellow doctoral candidates who have facilitated arts in conflict programs in Africa and Asia.
Artists, peace workers, art therapists, mediators, educators, coaches, humanitarian workers—and especially RPCVs!—are encouraged to pursue the EXA-CT MA program.
You can learn more about the program here: http://expressivearts.egs.edu/academic-programs/ma-expressive-arts-conflict-transformation-and-peacebuilding/.