During his residency, Irakli Kakabadze has led a seminar in the Cornell University Peace Studies Program teaching students to use literature to create positive solutions for society. In one such class, the students took Kakabadze’s tragedy, Candidate Jokola (which has been suppressed in Georgia) and used conflict resolution strategies to change the outcome of the play and address the political and ethnic issues currently facing Georgia. Recently, Georgia’s Minister of Reintegration saw these performances on the Internet and incorporated student suggestions into new proposals for reconciliation in the region.
On April 7, “Acting Locally: Building Peace Through Creative Arts,” will be held at Cornell University to celebrate Kakabadze’s work in Ithaca, particularly his efforts to engage students in political issues through creative arts. The event will be held at 4:30 in Kaufmann Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell.
At the event, student members of Kakabadze’s seminar, “Peace-Building and Creative Arts.” will discuss their experiences working with Kakabadze. An excerpt from Kakabadze’s play, Candidate Jokola, will be performed by J.G. Hertzler, Michael Kaplan, Rockwell Shah, and Akilah Terry, and directed by Beth Milles, all of Cornell. The performance will be followed by a screening of Christian Madera’s film, Rethinking Tragedy: Creative Solutions to Conflict in the Caucasus, which depicts the student performances in Kakabadze’s class. A dialogue on the role of art to effect social change will follow the film.
“Art is a good way to overcome conflicts by using creative thinking to communicate,” says Kakabadze. In 2003, Kakabadze co-founded the Georgian Theatre for Change, which transformed the monologue of a theatrical performance into a dialogue between audience and stage. The theatre was part of the movement that led to the Rose Revolution, a bloodless uprising that led to the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze and the call for new national elections. Fearing for his safety and that of his family because of his writings and activism, Kakabadze sought refuge with the International Cities of Refuge Network, which referred him to ICOA, an organization that provides sanctuary to writers whose works are suppressed and whose lives are threatened.
“Peace is a dangerous idea to some people,” says Kakabadze. A documentary about his ongoing struggle for human rights in Georgia, At the Top of My Voice, was released in 2009.
“Irakli feels that it’s really important to talk about the power of artists as activists and the artists’ contributions to peace-making,” said Travis Winter, a board member of ICOA. “It’s all about getting different perspectives. He wants to emphasize the multiple contributions of people who wouldn’t have been part of the discussion had there been only one voice.”
Vista Periodista, a press that supports the Ithaca City of Asylum, is publishing an American edition of Candidate Jokola. The April 7 event is co-sponsored by Ithaca City of Asylum; Cornell University Department of Government; Cornell University Department of Theatre, Film, and Dance; Cornell University Creative Writing Program; Cornell University Peace Studies Program; and Vista Periodista.