When collaborative art creates peace – Cartoon production in the South Caucasus

Am 30. November 2020 war es soweit: Bei der digitalen Premiere stellten fünfzehn Jugendliche aus dem eigentlichen Georgien, dem abtrünnigen Abchasien und Russland ihren gemeinsam produzierten Cartoon namens „InSight“ vor. Entstanden ist der kurze Film im Rahmen des Projektes „WE CARE“, das zum Ziel hatte, die Rolle der Jugendlichen in Friedensinitiativen zu unterstützen.

On 30 November 2020, the big day had come: During the digital premiere, fifteen young people from Georgia proper, breakaway Abkhazia and Russia presented their jointly produced cartoon called “InSight”. The short film was produced as part of the project WE CARE, which was implemented by DVV International and its partner organisation Georgian Adult Education Network (GAEN) and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

The eight-month project aimed to support the role of young people in peace initiatives. The universal language of art was chosen as a tool for conflict resolution: through the joint production of an animated film, the young people were brought together. Themes that unite the young people were deliberately chosen for the project.

About the conflict in the South Caucasus

Georgia first lost the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, and later the South Ossetian Autonomous Region, in the early 1990s in the wake of the military conflicts that took place in the country. The conflict around South Ossetia intensified further in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. More than 300,000 Georgians were displaced to other regions of the country from both breakaway territories occupied by the Russian Federation. Many years of isolation and confrontation have meant that the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have virtually no contact with people in the rest of Georgia.

Breaking down prejudices online

Through online workshops, the young artists acquired not only artistic skills and techniques of producing animated films, but more importantly, skills that helped them to work together, cooperate and listen to each other. The project enabled the participants to see each other in a new light. Under the guidance and supervision of experienced trainers, they learned to recognise and change prejudiced attitudes. In turn, they brought these important experiences back to their societies by sharing their feelings and memories with parents and friends about meeting their peers from the “other side”.

Due to the pandemic, the project had to be implemented entirely online. Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the trainers, the participants overcame not only geographical but also virtual borders and, against all odds, felt like one group of artists and friends. The safe learning environment created by the project coordinators and trainers also contributed to this. The training methods chosen enabled the organisation of joint activities and an open intercultural dialogue.

Art promotes social cohesion

The animated film exceeded the expectations of all participants. The story of the protagonist, Teo, is about being confronted with experiences from childhood in everyday adult life. The film draws attention to one’s right to personal happiness and points out the little things in life that contribute to it: a sweet cake, a kind word, petting one’s favourite dog, the smile of the girl one loves... The message: live in the here and now and enjoy every moment!

Participation in the project helped the young people to become change agents in their communities, to develop intercultural competences, to use new and creative tools for dialogue with young people on the other side of the border and to strengthen the role of art in promoting a sense of belonging. The project resulted in the young people having made an important contribution to conflict reduction in the South Caucasus through their film and outreach to their societies.

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