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O3 Arts Festival: Connecting Arts and Media to Social Action

Our Family, Our Neighborhood, Our World (O3), AIF’s newest project fostering educational innovation, commemorated its one-year anniversary with a community celebration at the intersection of culture, identity, and social issues in Amritsar.

DSC_8558Over the past year, students in the Punjab have learned to critically reflect upon their identities and engage with the issues that impact their lives through interactive workshops and cultural events – to prepare them to create original multimedia and artistic projects connecting the local to the global through community action. On February 8, more than 400 students in Amritsar came together to showcase their original multimedia works of art and social action through film, theatre, music, and dance. Over 600 community members joined the O3 arts festival, enjoying documentaries, video shorts, and theatre performances on Punjabi culture and social issues, as well as traditional Punjabi folk dances focused on meaning-making in contemporary Punjabi society of traditions impacted by Partition and migration.

Highlighting the festival was a theatre piece entitled “Who Am I” staged and performed by students of Spring Dale Senior School. This stunning expose explored the concept of female identity in both Punjab and India from birth to motherhood, and its changing dimensions in today’s world. Traditional Punjabi folk dances also enraptured and enlivened the audience. Girls from Shahid Baba Deep Singh School performed an innovative interpretation of the Punjabi traditional folk dance form of giddha, in which dance is interwoven with folk poetry verses called boliyan traditionally encompassing topics ranging from family concerns to political affairs. The performers presented giddha with their own original bolis, highlighting local social ills and ways the community can come together to address them. Performances of ancient forms that are typically now only performed in Pakistan, including sammi by girls of Cambridge International School and jhumar by boys of Rashtriya Bal Shiksha School, demonstrated the vitality and unity of Punjabi culture.DSC_8583

From “Gender Equality,” a street play by students from Bhavans SL School stressing the importance of equal opportunity for boys and girls, to “Mann Han Dhiyaan,” a play by Guru Khalsa High school students condemning female feticide, students showcased the boundless of potential for creativity to confront issues in their own lives and community.

AIF also unveiled “The Garland,” an anthology of poetry written by O3 students at the festival. Based on the poetic form inspired by George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From,” the anthology of poems included work from participating students from India, Pakistan, as well as the U.S., to build global communities of learning and cooperation. The festival included a forum for teachers and students to share their experiences in O3, testimonials which reflected thoughtful and socially-engaged attitudinal changes about the relationship not only between India and Pakistan, but a wider global community – and how the project has provided knowledge, skills, and tools to bring positive change in their own communities.

A digital  cross-cultural exchange platform combining arts and media with social action, O3 inspires young people in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan to build intercultural understanding and engage in collaborative dialogue to ignite social awareness and fuel positive changes within their families, their neighborhoods — and our world. The platform enables young people to collaborate through creative competencies to become leaders in their communities and take social action.DSC_8702

The O3 project is funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State and implemented in partnership with the International Education and Resource Netowrk (iEARN) for collaboration with schools in Pakistan.

To view a sample of O3 student projects, please visit www.youtube.com/AIFO3project

Our Family, Our Neighborhood, Our World” (O3) is a people-to-people cultural diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

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