Placing collaboration at the centre of what they do, Intercultural Roots are a network of 120 practitioner-scholars connected to communities and universities in over 26 countries, committed to the sharing of embodied practice and applying research gained within their practice. Currently adapting to the effects of the pandemic on collaborative practice by hosting sessions online, Intercultural Roots have introduced the Ripples Project, an initiative encouraging anyone online to respond to the question ‘What matters to you?’, with the first edition having taken place on World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10th October 2020), the 2nd due to take place on Saturday 24th October 2020. Ahead of the 2nd edition – Executive Director Dr Alex Boyd and fellow practitioner-scholars Dr Andrea Maciel and Alice Motta tell us more about the initiative and the organisation.

Hi Alex, Andrea and Alice, Intercultural Roots have recently launched Ripples, a project that coincided with World Mental Health Day. Reaching out to artists across the world, the project’s theme asks ‘What matters to you?’ Why ask this particular question?

We first proposed this question as part of our Health & WELLth initiative in 2019, bringing diverse communities in London together for a Health & WELLth Festival that was scheduled for April 2020 and is now postponed to Spring 2021. It was in response to the pandemic of mental health issues – loneliness, anxiety and depression – prevalent in London and worldwide. Our intention was to reverse the externality of asking ‘What’s the matter with you?’ that treats people as a patient, towards allowing people to consider a self-responsibility for their health and wellbeing, and to recognise that they are the source of what’s going on in their life.  One of the Intercultural Roots’ Trustees, (Te Ahukarimū) Charles Royal, an indigenous Māori from New Zealand suggests that in the wake of the challenges our global village is currently facing, this question might become ‘What matters?’ for indigenous peoples there is no distinction between an individual, their community and the environment. With Covid-19 we’re beginning to realise that we’re all in this together.

Seven artists from seven different continental time zones at sunrise were commissioned to respond to this theme – Choreographer Abigail Sena Atsugah from Africa (Ghana); Executive & Artistic Director of Tau Dance Theatre (TAU) Peter Rockford Espiritu, Takumã Kuikuro, who is internationally renowned for his films and belongs to the ethnicity of Kuikuro in the Xingu Reserve Park of South America (Brazil); Olive Nieto performer and professor from Asia (Philippines); Savita Rani from Asia (India) who recently completed her Ph.D exploring ‘A Study on Devised Solo Theatre in India’; Europe (Berlin) based dancer Ahmed Soura; and Lizzy Tan from North America (USA) who currently lectures solo performance centres on the philosophy of image and the representation of the female performing body. How did you choose your final 7 artists?

The International Ripples Steering Group (Elizabeth de Roza from Singapore, Shabari Rao from Bangalore and myself) decided early on that Ripples should make a little inclusive ‘splash’ in each continent of the world from which waves might reach out to move others. We approached people within the Intercultural Roots international network and asked them to recommend artists who have a sense of community spirit in their work, who aren’t just doing arts for entertainment. With limited resources we could only afford micro-commissions for seven artists. We did try to reach out to any scientists working at the international research bases in Antarctica to see if anyone might have an artistic leaning but with no positive response in time, we chose two artists based in Asia instead (Savita Rani, India and Olive Nieto, the Philippines).

Responses towards the project will form a global picture of the challenges we as individuals and as a collective have faced during Covid-19. How will responses help Intercultural roots moving forward? Why are these responses from the public crucial?

In many cultures we often begin a conversation with a question such as ‘How are you?’ or, as in parts of India, with ‘Have you eaten?’Ripples offers an opportunity to amplify the voices of artists and allow more people to listen to diverse perspectives of What Matters. We are seeking to create interconnections between all the artists involved in order to facilitate a deeper dialogue through exchanges of knowledge and practice. The strength or synergy of an ‘intercultural’ approach exists in empowered people meeting with integrity and equality and deciding to exchange know-how for mutual benefit and the co-creation of something new. This is what is at the heart of Intercultural Roots’ local yet global approach to Ripples, to ‘think like a system, act like entrepreneurs’.

Intercultural Roots will also be hosting two Zoom sessions on the 3rd and 12th November to continue the conversation and will be lead by mental health expert Dr Ian Kenvyn. What can participants expect from the sessions?

These sessions, that we are calling ‘The Ripples Effect’, are the first time we are inviting all the artists to meet in order to deepen dialogue and exchange know-how.  Artists who might attend are invited to share strategies that they have used to maintain mental, spiritual and physical balance through these uncertain times. The two sessions are timed to be inclusive of all timezones, are free of charge and open to all artists:

  • Tue, 3 Nov 2020, 09:00 (London Time), 17:00 (Singapore Time)
  • Thu, 12 Nov 2020, 20:30 (London Time), 10:30 (Honolulu Time)

Intercultural Roots also run online classes supporting with coping physically and mentally with the lifestyle shift this year has forced upon everyone. What can participants expect from the sessions?

Participants can expect sessions that will introduce them consistently and with quality to artistic practices where they can cultivate their own sense of health and balance and tools for wellbeing. With the Get Active Online sessions being live, they will also have the opportunity to interact with the practitioner and other participants and feel connected. This interaction, with a focus on learning a particular practice, brings togetherness and is important in tackling loneliness.

The public are invited to join the next opportunity to respond to the theme on Saturday 24th October at noon dependent on time zone. For anyone considering taking part, how do they get involved?

It’s easy to get involved and there’s no charge.  At 12 Noon on Sat, 24 October (wherever you live) film a one-minute artistic response to the Ripples question ‘What matters to you?’. Then share this video or a link to it on your social media with the hashtag #ripplesworld

If it isn’t possible to film a response, then an image or writing is fine. There’s an additional, optional opportunity for artists to have their response pinned and featured on the Ripples Google Earth Map

You can also make a small donation in support of the Ripples Artists at Donorbox

There are also further opportunities on Sat, 7 & 21November (to produce an artistic answer during sunset and midnight, respectively) and again on Mon, 21 December (at the exact same time all over the world, and we’re welcoming readers ideas on when that time should be).

How have you found having to adapt how you connect with people during this unpredictable time?

It’s extremely important to have a consistent approach to any online session, checking in with people on how they are before a class and getting their feedback afterwards.  This is as important as delivering content during the class. We have found that in the experience of being together simultaneously online that it’s important to update, discuss and share.  The opportunity to engage in meaningful practices with people from all over the world through at this moment has been essential in gaining tools to get us through these turbulent times.

What are your hopes for the Ripples project?

We hope that from the seven little splashes, Ripples will propagate out to affect many peoples’ lives and create a large platform of contact, connection and content.  From the opening question of ‘What matters to you?’ we would like to support ongoing dialogue that deepens understanding of the materials, sources and subjects that matters to artists. At the same time, we would like to enable a collective sharing and creation of meaning from these points of interaction and develop opportunities for creating intercultural solutions to the issues our global village is facing.

Co-authored by:

Intercultural Roots Executive Team (Dr Alex Boyd, Dr Andrea Maciel, Alice Motta)

Ripples Steering Group (Dr Elizabeth de Roza, Shabari Rao, Dr Alex Boyd)

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

The next opportunity to take part in the Ripples Project run by Intercultural Roots is Saturday 24th October 2020. Use the hashtag #Ripplesworld when sharing your response on social media.

To find out more about Intercultural Roots, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop