The Role of Art in Peace-Building UPF Seminar & Art Exhibition At the Parliament of NSW

By Marcelle Mansour
On 28th Oct 2015, I was invited by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Sydney, Australia to exhibit and speak about the role of art in peace building, at the Parliament of NSW, in the presence of  the Hon Glen Brooks representing the Hon David Clarke, MLC, Mr Gregory Stone the President of UPF Australia, and a number of elite from the Australian Arab communities of writers, poets, doctors, artists, intellectuals, journalists and those interested in the artistic and cultural, social and political affairs. The audience varied from Australian Communities of Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian, and ambassadors of peace from other ethnic communities.

At the event, I addressed the topic of Threshold, The Art of Light and Perception for healing, renewal and rebirth of world peace and spoke about my innovative art of light aiming to help crossing the Threshold of Transformation through Light and Perception Towards Peace-Building with Justice. I displayed a series of artworks that are a part of Threshold Art Exhibition which was created to be exhibited over the two years of 2014 & 2015, for it has coincided with the world‘s commemorating the centenary of the First World War, along with UN declaring 2014 as the ‘Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People’. This year, the exhibition is coinciding and celebrating the 2015 International Year of Light, and also with the UN international Day of Peace with slogan says: “Partnerships of peace dignity for all.”, and also the 70th anniversary of the United Nations. It was previously and virtually exhibited in New York City during the Armory Week in March 2014; in Bankstown Arts Centre in April 2014, in Mary MacKillop Museum, North Sydney for four months from Dec 2014 until March 2015, at UPF embassy in April 2015, and recently a selected artwork has been exhibited at the Fifth Annual Award, International display at the Louvre Museum in Paris in July 2015, and currently at the Parliament of NSW in Oct 2015.
Jana Lajdova professionally performed the Master of Ceremony, The Hon Glen Brooks welcomed the attendees, and stated that the Parliament of NSW is the oldest in Australia and it is available for all. Then he delivered a brief speech about art and light, highlighting the importance of light in the art, especially he uses it in his work in the advertising company, he knows the value of light and what it could do in the sense of imagination and calmness. The Hon Glen Brooks on his own words: “Some of the artwork I can see here on display is what I consider is a great art and to have light work involved with the peace is a wonderful thing.” 
Greg Stone, the UPF President Australia stated: “We are really happy to have Marcelle invited here to exhibit and to explain about her inspiring and stimulating exhibition tonight that is a beautiful display in light, for light talks about truth and beauty and we need light in our life and our world. Mr Stone said: “The reason the UPF is involved in art is because there is a kind of foundation in our work and Marcelle’s work, because UPF is dedicated to world peace, harmony and prosperity for all. We should all relate to each other as brothers and sisters as all one family created by God. Spirituality is a lead to our life we appreciate the importance of the moral principle that should guide what we do as strong families and communities. Our tradition is to teach the gold rule to serve others which makes amazing peace building exercise for unity. We are very diverse in this world but we need to break down the barriers and dividers, it means we should appreciate the great diversity and break the barriers that dividing and creating harm, contributing to establish true love and peace.” 
In my turn, I was able to deliver multiple presentations including my speech of my art conception of Threshold, reading my English exphrasis poetry of ‘Spiritual Dialogue with Light’ and my Arabic poem of ‘Come along to Change’, then a screen presentation that conveyed the message at the various numerous levels. I provided a brief history of my parents’ displacement from Jaffa, Palestine since the Nakba in1948, and my birth and life in the Gaza Strip, providing historical, cultural, intellectual, social and political presentation of the concept of the Palestinian cause, then explaining what is happening in recent times where Palestininan children and youth are being exposed to genocide and to the horror and terror of the Israeli occupation; “ The occupation and war is still on for 67 years and the peace talk keeps failing for 21 years....What we  are seeing now is that more bloodshed only leads to more violence and hatred on both sides, without any fair logical solutions." I also asked for prayer for those who lost their loved ones, and for children who became orphaned.  
Then, I spoke on the topic of "How to cross the threshold through light and perception towards a just peace building". I explained at length about the concept of the art of light and perception in Contemporary Art, its objectives, aims and goals, and the motives that led me to create this work. “This comes out of my voice, as an Australian Palestinian Artist, I have a point of view that has been shaped by the impact of conflict and displacement, but also have a great love and sense of connection to my motherland. The impetus driving my work comes from a strong desire to see my motherland Palestine liberated, to be transformed by the light of peace and freedom, liberation and universal humanity that is in opposition to the barbarous occupation which is building a de facto reality on the earth.”
“Through my art, I present a kind of an intersection between me, my identity, my cause, the history and the world. In my vision, I visualize the reality of the world. Art is central to politics and to social relationships, for works of art can create reality, works of art can transform and transfigure our experiences in our continual remaking of the world. Therefore, I humbly wish for some politicians to have some creativity and spirituality, to help in gaining better guidance in making wiser decisions. Some religion leaders need to redirect and re-educate the new generation regarding to the actual purpose of faith. Therefore, we really need a kind of deep transformation which will make a radical change to enable us to recreate our reality and reshape the world’s reality.”
Inspired by both my roots in Eastern and Western Art and spiritual and philosophical traditions, I have explored the phenomena of perception as a path to self-knowledge. I focus on universal human experiences through phenomenology towards positive socio-political change via renewal of the inner soul. In my work, I paint with light as a focal point to explore the mystery and to reveal the invisible. This perception is appreciated by the spirituality within various religions or no religions, regardless of ethnic origins, because of the abstraction of nothingness or zero form. This may depend on people’s visions and thoughts, and that’s why, viewers are a part of my work. I focus on light as a metaphor for knowledge and wisdom through phenomenological arts. Light is a manifestation, a presence, a source of the ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ which enable us to experience the inner life. This is where the ‘invisible becomes ‘visible’ and the light shines out of darkness and helps to transform us so that we become a source of light. Inspired by my roots in Eastern Culture, I have used materials and elements that have a significant meaning in our tradition such as: gold leaf, alchemy, salt, frankincense, olive oil and earth dust, marble stones, holy bread and gauze. 
My art represents crossing the threshold of transformation. The shifting colour of light while circulating represents threshold when a deep alchemical transformation happens to cause renewal and rebirth to exist which affect healing and embracing love and peace.
Through my creative works I invite my viewers/ audience to cross the perception, to reveal the invisible truth, to be loyal citizens and to unite in peace and harmony. Through my art of light and perception, I want to enrich Australia and the world by creating a culture of Peace-building through crossing the 'Threshold of Transformation for Healing, Renewal and Rebirth. Painting with Light and Perception affects minds and senses -regardless of origin or religion, faith or no faith- to cross the ‘Threshold of Transformation', to rethink ourselves and the world conflicts, for healing humanity and reshaping reality, towards changing War into Peace, Occupation into Liberation, Violence into Peacefulness, Terrorism into Elevations and Materialism into Spiritualism.”  
At the end of the seminar, where the speakers provided important perspectives, it was the discussion’s time for questions and answers through the interaction between the Artist and the viewers, with an excellent positive audience’ feedback, where they could sum up and draw some conclusions of that peace with justice, freedom and humanity is the right for all peoples. It is great to paint with light and perception that may lead to transformation and change the world for the better. 
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the officials of the Parliament of NSW for heir tireless efforts and the UPF members who organised the event, in particular, Mr Greg Stone, and also the Arabic Media representatives, including writers and poets, all the attendees and community members for their excellent support. 



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