Syrian Cultural Initiatives and Projects Relating to Civil Action and Democratic Change, a Research piece by Rama Najma
Under the Cultural Priorities in Syria program, the researcher Rama Najma is finalizing a research piece entitled Syrian Cultural Initiatives and Projects Relating to Civil Action and Democratic Change. The research aims to map the cultural initiatives and projects that have been initiated and developed as part of the civil participation in the Syrian revolution. The research also seeks to achieve quantitative credible results that show the reality of the Syrian cultural movement after 2011 and its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its opportunities and challenges. The research will allow the development of digital charts that categorize existing cultural initiatives according to a number of variables (type, geographical location, cultural tools used, institutional form, continuity, relationship with the community, etc.).
"For decades, Syrian arts had established their own tradition of criticizing authorities and the ruling power using a metaphorical language confined within careful limits that have made Syrian artistic and cultural activity often classified as an elitist activity. However, Syria's suppressed energy was finally brought to light by the Syrian revolution," says Najma. "With the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, hundreds of artistic attempts emerged as an essential part of the civil action. The revolution has produced many artistic forms and innovations that have transformed the public space into an escape from overwhelming tyranny. Artists have challenged the ruling power and its symbols through graffiti, photos, caricatures and literary writings. Moreover, they have contributed to the peaceful movement through their songs and paintings and have played a role in communicating the Syrian tragedy to the world through cinema and documentary films. Today, they contribute to the fields of relief, education and psychological support of war victims through the theater, performances and other artistic initiatives."
The researcher Rama Najma describes the research problem by saying, "Cultural projects operate today under difficult conditions and limited capabilities, especially in besieged areas. They do not have fixed funding sources, clear management methods, or written strategic plans. Some of them are working according to purely momentary visions, which threaten their continuity, especially under the continued artistic displacement that has been happening for five years, where the Syrian cultural action and activities have leaked into neighboring countries. Today, the independent cultural sector seems vague, indecipherable, and chaotic due to the lack of cultural structures and reliable legal references to organize it, let alone its dispersion over many countries. In order to answer the questions relating to the role of the independent cultural sector in Syria in the future, and to achieve the desired democratic transition, seems to need a greater knowledge base. This is true even regarding the role of the cultural sector in Syria today and its potential to play a bigger part in protecting Syria from collapsing and disintegration. Many questions need to be answered. For example, what is this sector? What are its tools? What is its relation to Syrian cultural resources? Who are the key actors and players in this sector? What is its real size? What are its sources of funding? How is it distributed geographically? Are there artistically neglected areas? What are the arts that enjoy the lion's share in this sector? Are there marginalized arts? Does financing focus on certain agendas and why? Is there a new artistic elite taking shape and acquiring the largest share in the cultural scene? Is there a new dominant culture that speaks for others? What is its sustainability and continuity rate? What is its developmental aspect?"
The importance of this research stems from the need to understand the new cultural action map as one of the important steps for building institutionalized forms of sustainable cultural action, directing the focus towards redressing the most vulnerable areas in this map or utilizing their strengths. This research also comes in line with the framework of Cultural Priorities in Syria programme, through which Ettijahat Foundation aims to develop cultural policies led by the independent sector, and to change the dynamics of independent work in Syria. This requires a clear identification of goals and targets, a full understanding of the reality to be changed, and an appropriate management of the components of this reality.
"The research is a quantitative research that examines a number of variables by measuring them and dismantling their relations with the Syrian cultural projects associated with civil action," said Rama. "The research will cover the largest number of projects and cultural initiatives relating to civil action. They will be classified by a number of variables (geographical distribution, continuity, type, start time, funding, etc.). The research will produce statistical ratios that can be generalized to the research population, so that they reflect the shape of the independent sector's map and its transformations over the past four years."
For inquiries and more information about the research, please contact Ettijahat at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cultural Priorities in Syria is a program that seeks to reconsider the Syrian cultural project in the context of the political and social transformations occurring in Syria. The program aims to bring together specialists and actors in various cultural and creative fields, who are interested in public affairs, to discuss issues relating to cultural change and to work to make the "independent sector" an effective key player and contributor to the decision-making process. The informal group of Cultural Priorities in Syria is implementing this programme with the support of the Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy) organization.