Being blinded by labels stops social change. Art helps us see a better future

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Gina Badenoch, Founder, Ojos que Sienten AC & Capaxia UK, Capaxia UK


• Cultural leaders and social entrepreneurs should collaborate to effect social change.

• Art and storytelling help people to write their own narratives and connect beyond labels.

• Making art means embracing uncomfortable states to produce self-transformation.

There is a need to make visible the invisible, and artists collaborating with social entrepreneurs can achieve this much faster in order to:

1. Amplify the voice of those who are not being seen and heard beyond their labels, which limits people’s reach, their potential and purpose in life.

2. Create a more inclusive narrative, showcasing diverse role models with whom a diverse group of people can relate. Stop “cookie-cutter” culture, where we are all forced to fit in a box, instead freeing people to express who they truly are, embracing their intersectionality.

3. Build a bridge through photography and storytelling, which connects and invites us to ask with curiosity and empathy, while listening with compassion and respect.

I want to start by sharing a short story with you that reminds me every day of why I do what I do as a cultural leader and social entrepreneur.

Walking along the beach with my friend Alejandra, we stopped and stood on the sandy beach, smelling the freshness of the sea. I closed my eyes, while she started describing to me how she perceived the sea.

Alejandra said: “As we feel the water coming between our feet and on our toes, it tickles all over the body, as if someone is kissing me all over. But when the wave flows back to the sea, I can feel its strength pulling me, so I stand firm and respect it.

“As we listen to it, I know the sea is immeasurable and I like that as it makes me feel there are no limits.

“Actually, the more I think of it, the sea for me is just like men: playful.”

Then she took her camera and pressed the shutter to take the photo of herself standing on the sandy beach.

At that moment I opened my eyes and realized that even though my friend Alejandra was born blind, she could perceive the essence of the sea and the surrounding much better than me or other sighted people would do so.

It was that moment that I knew the power photography and storytelling had to build bridges that can connect people beyond their labels. Getting to see, understand and respect people’s identity and potential. Embracing the beauty there is in imperfection, like the Japanese art of kintsugi, built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. This is the essence of resilience.

Thanks to sensory photography – the art of using all the senses to take photographs, which I started teaching 15 years ago – Alejandra has learned to “see” her imperfections as opportunities to become a strong, independent woman. Even though she only has a basic education and no university degree, she now has a job in a photography shop, which has dignified her life and her family’s, earning double the salary she used to earn.

She got the chance to change her narrative by amplifying her voice through photography, and connected with a more diverse group of people by working in Ojos que Sienten, my NGO: by leading dinners in the dark, she became a role model, reminding herself and society that her identity didn’t simply amount to the label of “blind woman”. What matters is her story: her potential to keep developing in an inclusive society that offers her the opportunities focused holistically on her as a person, rather than on her label.

The power cultural leaders and social entrepreneurs have working together to bring about change is considerable and can result in a more humane, creative, empathetic, compassionate, happy and healthy society.

As a photographer, storyteller and social entrepreneur, by shifting mindsets and changing the narrative, I aim to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable society, to achieve social and economic mobility.

Down the years, I have seen on a personal level how the creative process has enabled me to see things differently, allowing me to connect different perspectives to create a new way of doing things. This mean transforming:

Constant change, into opportunities to keep curious and creative enabling us to adapt, learn and keep moving, as life is not static.

Uncertainty, into a magic journey to the unknown, where our intuition will guide us throughout the suspense, keeping us focused to discover surprises or gifts that become skills or tools to keep innovating and creating.

Fear, into an opportunity to breath, to be present and reach out to others to avoid getting paralyzed, inviting you to collaborate with those who have what you are missing in order to achieve greater impact.

Frustration, into a space to observe, trust and let go, focusing in what one does have. It’s the opportunity to reconnect with oneself and give ourselves permission to not be in control or have the answers for everything, relinquishing our ego.

Vulnerability, into a hub for innovation, where having the courage to take risks with love and care towards ourselves and others enables powerful transformation.

My friend Alejandra is an example of putting this elements into place.

I believe as artists we have a huge opportunity and responsibility to work alongside social and tech entrepreneurs to catalyze change, because we have the power to use our curiosity and creativity to see life as a white canvas where we can produce our masterpiece, or as a camera ready to capture infinite images that invite us to tell a different story.

We all have a need to reconnect with our inner child and that artist within us, giving ourselves the opportunity to explore, imagine and dream with no limits, inviting people to create a human transformation through art.

What is a Cultural Leader?

The Cultural Leaders network convenes influential artists, cultural leaders and cultural institutions to engage them in the work of the World Economic Forum and to recognize the importance of cultural dimensions in all major issues.

Cultural Leaders help promote and advance inclusive and sustainable cultural change. The World Economic Forum collaborates with Cultural Leaders by co-developing exhibitions, performance, experiences and panels at our global and regional physical and virtual events, by commissioning and producing new work, and by engaging them in Forum projects such as the New Narratives Lab.

Examples include the Emmy-Award winning VR documentaries “Awavena” and “Collisions”, which was screened at the Australian Parliament and influenced the vote of new resolution to ban nuclear weapons, The Afghan Women’s Orchestra tour, which started a national dialogue on education, and the “ACCESS+ABILITY” exhibition on disability inclusion, co-curated with the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

As the American motivational speaker Wayne Dyer once said: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” And this is the power artists and storytellers have to create social change.

This article is part of a Wellbeing Series, launched by the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, with the idea to support the human aspects of entrepreneurship to unleash the potential for social change.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

These social entrepreneurs are lighting up Africa

More than half of world’s refugee children ‘do not get an education’, warns UNHCR

How responsible businesses can step forward to fight coronavirus

“Sorry mom it’s not our day”: the true refugee story of a young doctor and his family forced to flee their home

Here’s how to find a job you really love

UN agency plan tackles ‘hidden cost’ of gold, paves way for safer, mercury-free mining

Love Affair with Some(one)/(thing)

Civil society groups matter for Cambodia’s sustainable development: UN expert

To what extent are our moral standards responsible for killing people?

Smokers who quit one month before surgery reap benefits: UN health agency

Here’s how we reboot digital trade for the 21st century

The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

“France will be there, it will always be there!”, French President Hollande says in a rather disorganised speech; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Direction Wakanda: finance methods to make Africa a superhero continent

Venezuela: Parliament recognises Guaidó, urges EU to follow suit

Team Europe increased Official Development Assistance to €66.8 billion as the world’s leading donor in 2020

We need to rethink neuroscience. And you can help us

Four in 10 indigenous languages at risk of disappearing, warn UN human rights experts

Congrats to the #FutureofMalta: a new age of voting

Eurozone: Avoiding a new Greek accident

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Here are 10 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspirational quotes

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

China will be the world’s top tourist destination by 2030

More than 90 per cent of Africa migrants would make perilous Europe journey again, despite the risks

Eurozone: Austerity brings new political tremors

Sahel States need international support ‘now more than ever’– UN peacekeeping chief

What universities can learn about citizenship in the COVID-19 pandemic

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

MEPs hail minimum global corporate tax rate deal as historic

The Future of Retail: Changing shopping patterns will mean retailers need to invest in costly and complex solutions

On technology and medical ethics

Why the future for cars is connected

5 myths about face masks under the microscope

Medical students against male supremacy

Mali: Two peacekeepers dead after dawn attack, several injured – UN Mission

A Sting Exclusive: “Sustainable development goals: what role for business?” Commissioner Mimica asks live from European Business Summit 2015

Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers

Empowering people living with HIV ‘will end the epidemic’, says AIDS agency chief

5 things we get wrong about young people, according to a US study

Europe votes against GMOs but the Council votes for TTIP

Five ways individuals can help save the oceans

Scientists have a new suggestion to create more climate-friendly cows

IMF: When high yield goes boom

It’s time to build a responsible media supply chain

Europe eyes to replace US as China’s prime foreign partner

Myanmar: Departing UN rights expert still hopeful for democratic transition

European Labour Authority ready to start working in October as decision is taken on new seat

‘The best-selling brand today is fear’: UN chief highlights urgent need to address global ‘deficit of trust’

FROM THE FIELD: Going the extra mile with vaccines

EU-US Privacy Shield data exchange deal: US must comply by 1 September, say MEPs

These are the UK’s biggest trading partners

How technology can help us achieve universal healthcare

Conflict of interest and misuse of EU funds: The case of Czech PM Babiš

Towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen area

4 principles for securing the digital identity ecosystem

7 ways business can be agents for peace

EU budget 2022: Speeding up Europe’s recovery and progressing towards a green, digital and resilient future

SDGs and the historical and economic impact on Brazilian health

Rich economies not a promise of education equality, new report finds

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s