Art as Communication and a Bridge Towards Peace and Reconciliation

Art is the most basic and fundamental form of communication between human beings. Ages before the advent of spoken and written languages, effective communication between humans was achieved through pictures, as evidenced by Paleolithic cave art, and it was through such pictures that human language began to develop and evolve towards what we know and understand as language.

Communication itself is a method by which we share and exchange information. It is a two-way process, from point of origin to point of receipt. We communicate because we want or need to be understood. Thoughts themselves, by their nature, take form in our minds in the shape of mental images. The goal of language is to convey the meaning of those images to others. Cave art is the earliest example of such a process occurring, of mental images being conveyed by way of a tangible, physical medium, which in this case was rock and stone.

From the anthropological perspective, it may be argued that it is precisely this innate human capability and the realization of the necessity of mutual understanding that led directly to the gradual development of language. The more language developed, the closer humanity strived towards civilization. It is a key factor in the fields of anthropology and sociology that without language, civilization cannot exist.

Yet, despite the fact that human civilization has existed for over ten thousand years with many different languages having come into existence, conflict and war have remained an ever present constant throughout all the ages down to the present era. It is easy to justify thousands of years of continual bloodshed and violence by laying the blame upon some vague notion of “human nature,” but such arguments fall apart when we begin to understand the fundamental nature of the human condition.

We are able to gain such an understanding through art. The power of art is of such magnitude that it has the potential to bridge the apparent and imposed gaps between cultures and societies, and to reconcile the perceived differences between human beings. It has this potential because when art communicates, it brings about an understanding, whether on an emotional level, or intellectual, or both. Such art addresses some facet of the human condition, which is shared by everyone, everywhere.

Such realizations are still considered to be radical notions, and only in recent years have schools and universities seriously begun to explore the possibility of art as an extension of education, as well as a method of conflict resolution. When peoples of all different backgrounds and nations, all speaking very different languages, are able to sit together and express themselves to each other artistically, it can be seen that something extraordinary occurs. They begin to understand each other on a level they had not been able to before, and they then begin to view each other as human beings, rather than as different ethnicities, or nationalities, or races.

What all human beings across the world share is the fact of our humanity and sharing in the experience of the human condition. As human beings, the necessity for us to be able to strive towards peaceful resolutions and bring about mutual understandings is paramount. Governments and institutions will always agitate for war and conflict, but at the heart of it all, humanity strives towards an end to war and a beginning of a perpetual peace.

It may very well be a radical notion to suggest that such a peace will ever be possible, but that has never stopped anyone from trying. Increasing numbers of educational institutions and global conflict resolution organizations are utilizing art in such ways and discovering how incredibly simple everything becomes when people make the choice to begin communicating with each on the most fundamental human level. Conflicts and problems dissipate, and the exchange of humanity takes place. We can thus live to witness an end to all wars.

As radical a notion as this may all be, art has that power. It is simply up to us to take hold of it and set it free.

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on “Art as Communication and a Bridge Towards Peace and Reconciliation
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