Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oasis supports cultural understanding and dialogue between young people in Britain and the Middle East.

Our friend Charlie Devereux is off on a sponsored hike across the ‘desert’ in Norway to raise money to promote cultural understanding and dialogue between young people in Britain and the Middle East.

His friend Steve Stapleton has set up an amazing project promoting cross cultural understanding between the world of Islam and ours. He has compiled education packs to enable teachers in Britain's schools to teach children about Islamic art and culture. You only have to look at world events in just the last month- cartoon riots, the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war- to realise how important his work is.

This expedition will provide funding for 8 state school kids to make a cultural trip to the Middle East.

Charlie will be cross country skiing 80 km across the snows of central Norway over a period of 3 days (up to 10 hours a day). He has never done cross country skiing before!

The Project

All funds will be used to take a small group of young state school students on a 10 day ‘art adventure’ to the Middle East. The expedition will travel through the United Arab Emirates and Sultanate of Oman where the young artists will record the kaleidoscopic nature of life in an Arab and Muslim culture. The UK students will be chosen from a variety of cultural, religious and economic backgrounds and work alongside their local counterparts in creating a positive and timely portrait of the region for the 21st Century. Using traditional artistic media alongside cutting edge satellite communications the students will record and communicate their street level experiences to much wider school audiences in UAE, Oman and the UK. Resources (including short films, image banks and online content) generated from the expedition will be offered to over 1000 schools across the UK. The expedition is not just about taking 8 young Britons abroad; it is about challenging the perception of regions, religions and cultures widely perceived as dangerous and alien. The experience of 8 young people will be the platform to inspire and inform many more.

Background

Offscreen was set up by four British artists following their year long expedition to the Middle East in 2002-2003. Upon their return, their aim was to communicate their positive experiences to young people focus and in so doing, to encourage mutual understanding and challenge existing stereotypes. At the heart of Offscreen’s philosophy is the belief that art education can be an instrument of positive change within the classroom, the school and the wider community.

To date, Offscreen Education has been funded by the National Society for Education in Art and Design, the JAC Trust and a series of fundraising events (mainly parties and exhibitions). They have developed partnerships with the British Museum, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Arts Council to reach as many secondary students as possible.

Offscreen has already distributed resources to over 1100 schools across the UK and is facilitating a Middle East artists-in-schools initiative as part of the British Museum’s Arab World programme. The next stage is to offer a group of British state school students the chance to experience and record the Middle East for themselves.

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