This study considers how arts and cultural practices in Cyprus have been used in the context of conflict transformation and the role that the arts can play to alter policies and social practices at the grassroots level. It is embedded in a social understanding of the role of the arts in addressing conflict and looks at how creative practices can build community, social engagement and public involvement.
The phenomenon of social engagement in the arts is discussed in parallel with the use of art for the purposes of conflict transformation, with a particular focus on the perceived capacity of the arts to act as a catalyst for empathy and to facilitate contact and exchange across estranged communities. To understand the social and community dimension of contemporary arts practices a number of Cypriot cases that involve different aspects of arts organisation and cultural production across creative fields are mapped. The specific cases are examples of good practice and represent direct inter-community involvement, as well as long-term structures of creative collaboration that have focused on building social relationships and exchange.
In order to learn from other international experiences where art and culture have been used as tools to resist ethnic and social divisions, a series of place specific case studies are examined -- South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The examples discussed here allow for a wider understanding of how arts and cultural practices enable inter-communal patterns of cooperation, which bridge divisions and offer insight into diverse modes of practices that use the arts for the purposes of relationship building and dialogue. Learning from these local and international practices a series of recommendations are then outlined. These policy suggestions emphasize community and socially engaged arts practices and place the focus on how to shape cross-cultural policies, considering institutional collaborations, grassroots initiatives, private-public backing and the restrictions on the involvement of state bodies.