In the proposed research I will follow the approach of intercultural dialogues. Through intercultural dialogues we can reflect on our own culture and learn from other cultures. We can learn from each other. The process of intercultural dialogues can be illustrated with a painting (see below). The inspiration for the painting came from a parable of Tierno Bokar – a Sage from Mali.

  • Each wall represents a culture. The variation in stones on each wall represents the diversity within each culture.
  • The colorful birds nesting in each wall represent the words, proverbs, images, meanings, concepts, frameworks, and ideas that give color to the culture.
  • When a bird flies from one wall to the other wall, it leaves an empty nest behind and occupies an empty nest in the other wall. A bird from the other wall then flies the opposite direction and fills the empty nest left behind.
  • Birds continue fly from one wall to the other. This is the dynamic process of intercultural dialogues: words, images and thoughts are continuously exchanged between cultures. At a certain point, it is difficult to see which bird originally came from which wall: the cultures have been permanently influenced by each other through dialogues.
  • The green bird in the center of the painting has a special position. It is the only bird that can see both walls – it has an overview. Moreover, it is the only bird that looks straight at the viewer of the painting – it mirrors the viewer’s position, asking for reflection: What is your position in such an intercultural dialogue? Are you participating or observing? Do you have preset ideas about other culture(s)? If so, what are they? Have your thoughts and ideas changed through dialogues with other cultures? If so, what birds did you let go? And what birds did you receive?

‘Intercultural dialogue’, oil on canvas (120x70cm) by Birgit Boogaard (2016)