The powerful sculptures created by Helga Palasser and her colleagues are testaments to intercultural synergy. When cross-cultural contact is more than superficial tourism, and particularly when it is not assimilative or coercive, then cultural difference becomes the stuff of creativity. For this outcome it is insufficient to simply tolerate difference; rather, innovation emerges from the interactive space created by mutual respect. In the case of works displayed in the Stone Diary, traditional forms are imbued with intercultural energy and become newly evocative.
Milton J. Bennett, Ph.D., Executive Director
Intercultural Development Research Institute
USA: 6203 NE Rosebay Dr, Hillsboro, OR 97124 USA
ITALY: Via Francesco Arese 16, 20159 Milano, Italy
When I reached at Peace Park in Boharagaun, Jumla after one month, it was so amazing to see a peace statue over there. I could not believe myself because there was nothing last month. On the spot, I got to know Helga and Michael who was joining his hands to make it happen. Then I thought, Helga must have constructed that statue somewhere and brought to the park. Asked her without hesitation, I was so surprised to hear that it was the outcome of 10 days.
Then my heart was compelled to salute her for her vigorous effort to make it happen in such way. I really admire her work, efficiency, commitment, creative idea for symbolic and meaningful construction despite her fist visit to Nepal in such a remote mountaineering village. New place, people, culture, food, in the village did not effect her, so she could be focused into her work and completed in time. This statue was revealed by Chief Justice of Jumla on the occasion of World Peace Day in 21st September 2014, Sunday. It was also written on the statue that it is to remember the known and unknown demised souls during the conflict.
Thanks to Radha Paudel and Action Works Nepal team, Peace Park is there and waiting to build Miteri Centre there. Thanks to Helga, peace statue is there. I really appreciate her art, her work.
Women Empowerment & Livelihood Improvement Project
Italian Foundation (FRL Nepal)
Art Productions create an undeniable value within the development of the Creative Economy. The United Nations (UNCTAD) pointed in their Creative Economy Reports at the need for developing countries to treasure their cultural identities, and enhance their creative capacities of interaction and exchange.
The proposed Stone Diary project can be placed in this perspective. It offers the opportunity to develop a mutual exchange of both African and European cultural identities and traditions. It is targeted at initiating a North-South dialogue and intercultural exchange, combining initiative from both the travel and tourist sector, and the field of Art and Culture.
For the European partners it offers a unique opportunity to engage in renewed re-sourcing of the cultural roots , and enhancing transnational cultural experiences.
Drs. Rene KOOYMAN DEA
ARS NOVA , UTRECHT
Helga Passer’s project Stone Diary is a brave initiative to go straight to the heart of intercultural dialogue – to create opportunities for people to be made visible to each other.
So obvious and yet so complicated.
Without even uttering a word, our histories, life circumstances, economic aspirations, social models precede all the meetings we have with each other. Layers of assumptions and unintentional ignorance often cloud good intentions.
Geographical distance frequently mean less than the vast symbolic terrains of cultural difference between people – and how much more different could the people of Austria be from those in Zimbabwe, one wonders?
Palasser courageously made careful steps into this terrain by first opening herself and thoughts through her blog, and then engaging with the responses and results. Supported by her education processes, she sustained her professional commitment to reach beyond her own limitations and her known cultural landscape. With Allan Tapfumaneyi Tapfumanei and this project, she has set a multiplicity of journeys in motion.
There is one journey of the Austrian woman working with the Zimbabwean sculptors in Chitungwiza Arts Centre. There is another journey to find solutions to the common problems facing most artists – how to get their work to markets, local and global. Still another journey to be taken now as the results of these collaborations are crafted into an art book of interviews, research and images, that aim to support the marketing of the Chitungwiza artists in a broader context. No doubt there will be additional journeys as other relationships are built with a variety of project stakeholders such as galleries, musems and cultural tour operators.
And hopefully, these will generate another multiplicity of journeys, of people moving to new understandings and new ways of appreciating each other’s art and each other’s culture. There are new horizons and different possibilities for the destinations, although no-one can ever be sure of what lies there. Cultural diversity is a continually shifting territory, and not for the faint-hearted traveller. There are no guarantees.
The best we can ever do, however, is to commit to the journeys with our eyes as wide open as possible. To allow ourselves to be seen, and to respectfully seek to see that which has been unknown to us till now.
It is through careful projects like Stone Diary and Palasser’s considered work that we are given opportunities to do so.
Nicolette du Plessis
Cultural Radius Arts and Culture Consultancy