The Art of Peace: Performative and Arts Based Peace Practices in Contemporary Fiji

Peace-building Humanities Arts and Social Science (HASS) Arts Performing arts Fiji

This thesis seeks to address the relative absence of literature about grounded and localised approaches to peacebuilding in contemporary Fiji. It documents how and why Fiji artists, activists and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are increasingly using participatory, storying and arts-based approaches to engage communities in creative processes of imagining possibilities for peace. The case studies offered explore how arts-based methods were being used as both pedagogy and process for peace work within Fiji's diverse communities; to communicate messages of peace, and to create safe spaces for dialogue in contemporary Fiji. This thesis focuses on arts-based peacebuilding practices which were being undertaken by Fiji CSOs between July 2009 and August 2010. These stories of creative praxis contribute a better understanding of the relationships between peace, education, and the arts in contemporary Fiji. These arts-based approaches to peacebuilding include creative activism on intersecting themes such as; family and gender-based violence, religious and interdenominational conflict, racism, homophobia, and issues of stigma surrounding mental health and wellbeing. Arts-based processes are presented as a way of engaging with social, cultural and political conflicts in contemporary Fiji. Through the arts people can explore issues playfully and creatively, develop empathy with others, and learn about themselves. Teu le va (Anae 2007; Anae 2010) is the grounding conceptual framework which unifies the diverse qualitative research methods used within this thesis. To teu le va is to attend to, care for and nurture the relationships and relational spaces among and between people, to ensure that the quality of relationships and the process of research are recognised and respected. This research extends talanoa and tiko (Nabobo-Baba 2006) as methodological tools for research in multi-cultural Fiji, offering performative methods and processes as necessary tools for peace research which seeks to support communication, empathy and dialogue as key constituents of peace. Performative research methods complement the talanoa and tiko by helping ensure that understandings and insights gained within research can be communicated across Fiji's diverse multi-cultural communities.These stories about peacebuilding in Fiji reveal the creativity, diversity and dynamism of grounded and creative peace education practices. Moving away from dominant militarised stories of conflict and war, the thesis celebrates and explores alternative stories; stories of peace praxis and peacebuilding, feminist stories, and the stories of women and girls. I argue that there is a need to become aware of the gendered and conflict-centred narratives that tend to be told about the past, and how these stories can continue to powerfully impact on our understandings in the present. Creative possibilities and visions for peace generated by writers and artists through storytelling are offered as a pathway for ensuring that there is balance between the need to remember, the need to heal past traumas and conflicts, and the need to look hopefully and creatively towards the future.

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