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Civilization, Civilizations, and Art at the World Bank

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture
Eat the News, installation, table, place settings (5) collage, newspaper clippings, enamel, 2017. Courtesy of the Artist, Helen Zughaib
Eat the News, installation, table, place settings (5)
collage, newspaper clippings, enamel, 2017.
Courtesy of the Artist

There is a lot of excitement regarding the new “Civilizations” series on the BBC. Anybody who watched the original 1969 “Civilization” series hosted by Kenneth Clark will find it hard to forget the extraordinary opening scene, in which a professorial Clark, properly attired in tweed and tie, exclaims: “What is civilization? I don’t know, I can’t define it in abstract terms, but I think I can recognize it when I see it, and I am looking at it now.” He then turns back and the camera focuses on Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in all its splendor.

The new BBC series is no longer just about European civilization as seen through its artistic achievements since the Renaissance, but expands into civilizations more broadly defined, thus the additional “s.” It is hosted by legendary art historian Simon Schama, as well as Mary Beard and David Olusoga. It covers civilizations around the world including the ancient ones of China, Egypt, and Mexico.  Like the original series, it uses art as a defining and unifying principle that not only accompanies it but more properly, defines and characterizes human civilization.

Why is this so? Once again, turning back to Clark, he quotes John Ruskin as saying, “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts—the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last.”

The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys

Juliana J Biondo's picture
Helen Zughaib, The Places They Will Go, 2015-2016, dimensions variable, individual children’s shoes, painted in acrylic gouache on adhesive photo installation. © Helen Zughaib
Helen Zughaib, The Places They Will Go, 2015-2016, dimensions variable, individual children’s shoes, painted in acrylic gouache on adhesive photo installation. © Helen Zughaib 

Each one is different - one has pink rims, and multi-sized dots, and hues of electric orange, deep fuchsia, and sea foam green. Another is donning pinstripes in red and orange, with mint green rims. And another – violet, blue, and red checkers with accents of lavender. We are looking at shoes, twenty-two shoes to be exact. They are all hand-painted by artist Helen Zughaib. These shoes, titled Oh The Places They Will Go, is part of the artists’ exhibition The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys, which premiered at the World Bank in Washington DC from January 28th to February 16th, 2018. The exhibition was hosted by the World Bank Art Program, in partnership with the Middle East and North Africa Regional Vice President Hafez Ghanem. The World Bank Art Program hosts regular exhibitions, domestically and internationally, that shed light on pressing development issues.

The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys stands as an important connection point between the growing global crisis of refugees and internally displaced people, and the Bank’s continuing efforts to engage in reconstruction and recovery and address the root causes of conflict and violence  - from new financing mechanisms in Jordan and Lebanon, to new cash transfer programs in Yemen allowing more refugees access to food.

24 hours in Hargeisa, Somaliland



Somaliland is often described as a breakaway state, void of international recognition. But most parts of Somaliland—including Hargeisa—boast safe, democratic, and culturally compelling destinations for tourists and professionals alike. Situated on a more temperate plateau, Hargeisa was a cultural epicentre for Somalis until the 1970s, and an overdue revival of its historical and creative essence is being fuelled by the tens of thousands of Somalis returning from the diaspora to their homeland with ideas and capital to invest.

Quote of the week: Danny Sapani

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“What we want to get to is a place where we look at the human and not the colour, where we are not hampered by what we see. See within. Anyone can tell that story. It may be that there is a sort of access point that makes it easier for us to tell stories either from a western perspective or with a western face, because that is what we’re used to. What we must constantly do is change the access point, in order to create a fairer world.”

- Danny Sapani, a Ghanaian- British actor who has starred in Ultimate Force, Misfits, Hard Boiled Sweets, Singham 2 (a Tamil speaking film), Penny Dreadful, and Danny Boyle’s Trance. 
 

Development as Music: Using Africa’s Creative Wealth to Improve Lives across the Continent

Patrick Kabanda's picture
 Patrick Kabanda
Traditional dance is performed by young Swazi women at the Mantenga Nature Reserve in Swaziland. Photo: Patrick Kabanda


When I was a child I lived in two worlds. The first world was a creative one, filled with music, a teeming treasure of sounds that stretched from church to nature. It included thunderous organ chords, melodious tube fiddles, and raspy frog choruses, to name a few.  The other world I inhabited was more sober in nature, marked with political instability, hardships, and poverty. These two worlds came together in a loud cacophony that is my home country, Uganda.  

Quote of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“You know, life is romantic.  All these things, the unity of the arts, food, and people coming together, to see a beautiful show or have a good meal, these are the joys that we are blessed with.”
 
- Francis Ford Coppola, an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work on the The Godfather trilogy of films.
 

Campaign Art: Pão dos Pobres

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Globally, significant progress has been achieved in elevating the position and dreams of children. United Nations data show that mortality rates of chilren under 5 years of age have dropped by 49% from 1990 - 2013.  Primary school enrollment in developing regions reached 90% in 2010, up from 82% in 1999, which means more kids than ever are attending primary school. However, it is also true that youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed, and over 350 million young people are not engaged in education, employment, or training.

The lesson of the following video by Fundação Pão Dos Pobres is that reality can't stop us from dreaming.  To show that dreams are worthwhile, Pão dos Pobres created an art exhbition entitled "Por Trás Sonhos" (Behind the Dreams) featuring young people who illustrate their dreams for the future and professional artists who transform these dreams into depictions of reality.  Reality is often darker than our dreams, but that should be reason enough to work for positive change.
 
Por Trás Sonhos

1 in 3: What Does It Take for You to Be Outraged?

Marina Galvani's picture

Circumstance © Hanifa Alizada

The exhibition "1 in 3" was inspired by the work of a young Afghan photographer, Hanifa Alizada, and I picked her photo "Circumstance" for this blog as it conveys the painful march we are all on to fight this incredible level of violence against women worldwide. The exhibition highlights that this epidemic of violence does not single out any socioeconomic class. It knows no ethnicity, race, or religion. The scourge of violence against women and girls transcends international borders.

New research from the World Health Organization finds that some 35% of women worldwide — one in three — are subject to violence over the course of their lives, mostly at the hands of husbands or partners and at a huge personal and economic cost. 
 
Horrific events such as a gang rape on a bus seize headlines, but in fact no place is less safe for a woman than her own home. Estimates of lost productivity alone range from 1.5 to 2% of GDP, or roughly what most developing countries spend on primary education.
 
With "1 in 3," the World Bank Group Art Program seeks your engagement through art and encourages action to tackle gender-based violence.
 
This exhibition brings together hard data with some 80 nuanced, powerful artworks that explore the various ways in which violence affects the lives of women and girls around the world.
 
These works conveys the impact of domestic violence as experienced or witnessed by children, as in the paintings of Laben John of Papua New Guinea, and of sexual and gender-based violence as weapon of war, as in the sculpture of Freddy Tsimba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Artist Nasheen Saeed of Pakistan depicts the deadening neglect so many girls suffer in their own families simply because they are girls.
 
Photographers Kay Cernush of the United States and Karen Robinson of the United Kingdom take on human trafficking with intimate portraits of young women lured abroad by the false promise of a better life. All help break the silence that often surrounds violence against women, encouraging survivors to stand up and speak out.

Stimulating the conversation on Syria: From art to action?

Catherine Bond's picture
Fatigue, Bloodshed and Turmoil: Syrians Speak Through Art

If images spark conversation, can a conversation spur action? Or more specifically, can a discussion about art and Syria’s economy the more than 100 prompt finance ministers attending the World Bank’s annual Spring Meetings in Washington to dig deeper into their pockets and give more humanitarian aid to Syria?

Syrian Crisis: Seeing Conflict Through Art

Web Team's picture


After 3 years of war, themes of fragmentation, fatigue, and bloodshed all come across in the work of Syrian artists currently being exhibited at the World Bank.

Collectively, their paintings convey a sense of the internal turmoil caused by external violence, paintings that hint at conflict: the skeleton beneath the skin, a fractured womb, being caught in a trap like a fly, the scarlet gashes of torn flesh, and sinister handcuffs, to name a few subjects.

Join us April 9th, 2014, for the opening of the art exhibition featuring 35 paintings by 15 Syrian artists who were given the time and space to work at an artist residence in Lebanon.
Get a glimpse of the paintings here.

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