Updated: Jun 3, 2021
By Nethmi Gunasekera | Sri Lanka
This year has been the most devastating in the last two decades. Most of it due to the countless instances of violence recorded around the world, ranging from the terrifying threats of mass shootings to the horrendous murder of yet another African-American citizen.
Sri Lanka has its own troubled past, caused by the more-than-obvious racial tensions in our society. I ask: how can you teach people to respect each other?
The obvious solution would be to educate people, but in a trilingual country, education falls short because of the constant need for translation. Intentions get lost, words are misinterpreted, and the different generations suffer a lack of understanding between them. Thus, the cycle of ignorance and violence continues.
I recently experienced the pitfalls of education at the MMCA (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), where I had the pleasure of working as a visitor educator. I was tasked to help a school tour of year-eight kids. The museum hosted art pieces discussing the horrors of the Civil War (1983-2009). I realized that we should be as subtle as possible when describing the context behind them to the young group.
To my surprise, these inquisitive kids were immediately fascinated with the paintings. They asked the educators a barrage of questions and even gave us their interpretations
In that moment, I realized how important is art to the campaign against violence. The subjective nature of modern and contemporary art allows people to question and engage with the story behind the piece.
Art is the crucial element that enables a person, regardless of age, to empathize and recognize that story as part of its own.
Art reminds us that the stories of our violent past ended just 11 years ago and still haunt us through the subtlety of racial microaggressions. It is up to us to take the lead and take these stories to heart – to learn from them and continue to produce media that will help the many diverse communities find a common cause to fight for. Freedom of expression has never been such a powerful tool, and we are starting to realize how loud our voices can be.
It falls to us to encourage herd immunity with the vaccine of empathy.
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