“Once upon a conflict: Arts for confidence building” – chronicles of a Georgian-Abkhazian project

Since December 2013 the Regional Office of DVV International in Georgia has been implementing the reconciliation project “Once upon a conflict: Arts for confidence building”. The aim is to establish trust between young art practitioners and teachers from the divided communities in Georgia and Abkhazia by involving creative techniques and art methods.

The primary focus of the project is to enhance team spirit. This requires extensive communication, mutual trust and understanding. In December 2013, an initial workshop in Hopa (Turkey) brought together 24 beneficiaries from Abkhazia and Georgia for 12 days. They were trained in storytelling, scenario writing, puzzle tales, forum theatre methodology, photography and the production of collaborative art projects. The discussions and trainings in combination with the production of art pieces made the workshop an effective catalyst for change. And the change became very obvious: In the end, even the project staff was unable to distinguish between participants from the divided communities. 

After the workshop, the 24 participants conducted a series of trainings for young people in the cities of Gali, Sokhumi and Tbilisi to share their experiences. In parallel, they composed a scenario and produced preliminary sketches for an animated film. The movie “HugO” was developed in five months through sharing ideas, drawings and music on Facebook. It is a story of people who forgot how to share real feelings and who regain colours in their lives when they start to allow their emotions to flow again. 

The second workshop, which lasted 19 days, took place in the summer of 2014 in Antalya and Istanbul. The participants produced a story for the stage about love and faithfulness, which attracted over 100 spectators from Germany, Russia, Poland, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The participants also organised a photo exhibition in the hotel in Antalya. This served two purposes: to expose the guests of the hotel to daily life in Gali, Sokhumi and Tbilisi, and to display the art works of a young painter from Abkhazia. 

This open event drew attention of tourists from many different parts of the world. The participants organised flash mobs in the hotel and on the streets, involving other guests and passers-by. In addition, the project participants presented self-designed hats and dresses in an evening fashion show, much to the delight of all female tourists. Finally, the project group initiated a series of sports activities where Abkhaz and Georgian participants belonged to the same team and competed against folks from other countries. 

In the end, the participants from both communities proved to be a group of people who neither care about being separated by borders, nor being divided over the conflicts artificially imposed upon them. Rather, it came to be a group of individuals whom the common and universal values of art, peace and love will always keep united no matter what.

“Once upon a conflict: Arts for confidence building” is implemented in the framework of COBERM (Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism), a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development program (UNDP). COBERM supports immediate and concrete initiatives which seek to have an impact on confidence building within and across conflict divided communities.

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