Dear artists, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the fourteen of you to the interactive platform of project BUILDING BRIDGES. Together we bring to this discussion forum a multiplicity of culture, language, geographical locations, heritage, ethnicity, religious belief and faith systems, socio-economic backgrounds, gender and sexual orientations, physicality, family dynamics and more from across four continents, nine countries, seven time zones and possibly more than fifteen linguistic backgrounds - and these are just the apparent pluralities! Faced with such panoply of variety, where do we begin our conversation? Self and identity is always a good place to start, especially as artists. However, identity is also a double-edged sword, undeniably dependent upon distinctiveness of the individual or of a group from what is known as the ‘other/s’. Identity thrives on opposition, stereotyping, segregation, on alterity. So, the moot question is - if identity and otherness are two sides of the coin then is reconciliation between the two even a remote possibility? Cultural homogeneity has often been suggested as a possible answer to this as it supposedly eases communication due to shared views and value systems. This, however, to my mind, is a dangerous space to occupy, as seen from historical instances as well as many present-day circumstances where dominant groups in power try to trivialize, dehumanize or in more serious cases remove all traces of those who are deemed as ‘lesser’ or ‘outsiders’. 

The answer, to my understanding at least, lies in celebration of inclusivity and our heterogeneity. I feel it is the demand of our times that we need expanded value systems which will help knit humanity together, especially in the face of exponential changes sweeping the socio-political landscape of the world. Mahatma Gandhi said- ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world’. Change, to manifest itself in the world has to, ironically, start at the individual level. Therefore, as individuals, we need to start really ‘looking’ at the world with knowledge, respect and understanding. This exchange platform offers you a chance of doing just that. We hope that each one of you, for this short window of time will open channels of discussion and become virtual hosts by welcoming each other into our lives. This cultural immersion will help you find out more about value systems which may be alien to you, to hear the voice of the other that which you might never get the chance to otherwise, to understand other cultures not as an outsider looking in at something exotic, but as a friend who gets invited to someone’s home. Let us use our identity and our uniqueness to reach across and build lasting bridges of empathy. Welcome aboard!

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