Empowerment and Enjoyment: e-learning and the arts in a Festival in Cyprus    

How can a performing arts festival become an occasion for learning and sharing? How can the arts provide a platform for deeper discussions? How can occasions for dialogue be nurtured in a contested space, in the eastern part of the Mediterranean? When you put a pandemic in the mix, how can you keep the system from isolating itself?

The Buffer Fringe Performing Arts Festival, established in 2014 and running annually ever since, is a peacebuilding project of the Home for Cooperation, in the Ledra Palace Buffer Zone, in Nicosia, Cyprus. It hosts performances from Cyprus and abroad from the performing arts in general, and it welcomes works that are innovative, socially-engaged and current. In 2020, it needed to redefine and reinvent itself in order to face two dangers, one being the pandemic, and the fear and mistrust emerging from this global urgency, while the second were the practical difficulties on the ground as a result of the pandemic, specifically the closing of the checkpoints and the airports, which isolated people and communities.

The Festival, in collaboration with the IMPACT Platform for Arts, Culture and Conflict Transformation launched the ‘Thinking Partners’ program which actually aimed to try to reverse the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that were rampant within artists and communities in general.  The program provided artists and festival organizers with individuals from across the spectrum of the arts and sciences as mentors, assigned individuals that they could ‘think with’. At the same time, the festival website functioned as a blog/online journal, and hosted posts written by the artists and thinking partners narrating their process, through which the public witnessed in real time the work of the artists. Over 200 individual entries over 4 months, helped Buffer Fringe artists, Thinking Partners and audiences to stay on track with the creative process, the reflection on their process, and above all making them feel part of a community. The program continued in 2021, and in a difference format in 2022.  For reflections on the program, visit the article by IMPACT member Germaine Ingram: https://www.brandeis.edu/ethics/peacebuilding-arts/current-projects/impact/thinking-partners.html


The diary entries for 2020 and 2021: https://bufferfringe.org/artists-work/