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

Brexit Preparedness: European Commission adopts final set of “no-deal” contingency measures for Erasmus+ students, social security coordination rules and the EU budget

The journey begins – 2021 is the European Year of Rail!

Three experts on why eradicating plastic pollution will help achieve gender equality

Informal meeting of heads of state or government, Sibiu, 09/05/2019

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into public support for expansion of LG Chem’s electric vehicles battery plant in Poland

Rising number of young people excluded from jobs, education and training

Iran protests: Live ammunition reportedly used, says UN human rights office

In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities

Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU at the Chinese Fashion Night

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €5.6 billion out of €6 billion now allocated in support of refugees

Forget 2009, this is the real credit crisis of our time

Is there a cure for corruption in Greece?

COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and their challenges

EU Visa Policy: Commission welcomes agreement to strengthen EU visa rules

How to unleash the potential of regions like São Paulo

A comprehensive strategy for Eurozone’s long term growth gains momentum

US-EU trade negotiations: pointless tariffs against real economic growth

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris is the moment for climate justice”, Swedish MEP Linnéa Engström claims from Brussels

The ECB proposes a swift solution for SMEs’ financing

Major UN aid operation for 650,000 gets underway across Syria-Jordan border

Latest leaked TTIP document confirms EU sovereignty may be under threat

Societies must unite against ‘global crisis of antisemitic hatred’, Guterres urges

How powering food storage could end hunger

What are antibody tests and can they get the world back to work?

Education should be like everything else. An on-demand service

A new European banking space is born this year

Smart city experts should be looking to emerging markets. Here’s why

JADE Spring Meeting 2016 highlights

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Latest tragedy in the Mediterranean claims over 100 lives – UN refugee agency

Parliament demands ban on neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups in the EU

Memoirs from a unique trip to China: “my new old dragon” (Part II)

We need to rethink cybersecurity for a post-pandemic world. Here’s how

COVID-19 amplifies inequality. Fight back with long-term thinking

How COVID-19 vaccine efforts could help defeat other diseases

Former Chilean President Bachelet put forward by UN chief as next High Commissioner for Human Rights

Young people are key to defusing unrest and restoring public trust

A third of young people polled by UN, report being a victim of online bullying

The reskilling revolution can transform the future of work for women

European Defence Fund: EU funds new joint research and industrial projects

Coronavirus Global Response: EU Humanitarian Air Bridge supports Venezuela

Search Engine neutrality in Europe in danger: Are 160.000 Google filtering requests good enough?

Why we need different generations in the workplace

Mexico: UN chief saddened by pipeline blast in which dozens were killed

Use space technology to build a better world for all, urges UN chief

UNICEF urges ‘transformative shift’ in family-friendly work policies to reap ‘huge’ benefits

EU cracks under the weight of its policy on the Ukraine-Russia nub

We need a global convention to end workplace sexual harassment

Climate Change : An Already Health Emergency

10 reasons to be optimistic for the future, from young change-makers

COVID-19 practices are constantly changing – this app helps emergency doctors cope

After the European Parliament elections – what happens next?

Scourge of slavery still claims 40 million victims worldwide, ‘must serve as a wakeup call’

Chernobyl nuclear disaster-affected areas spring to life, 33 years on

Why the UK government must do more to boost green revolution

UN chief praises Africa for keeping ‘hearts and borders open’ in refugee crisis

OK computer: why the machine age still needs humans

In Bali, UN chief Guterres outlines importance of international financial cooperation for sustainable development

TTIP 9th Round marked by American disappointment: Will some optimism save this trade agreement?

As Dubai switches on its first 5G, what is all the fuss about?

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

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

You are commenting using your 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