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Inclusive Culture
For a world that's less disabling

Alice Hu and Zenghui Zhang in the performance „Midnight Movie“ directed by Xiao Liu in Theatre YOUNG within the framework of the DAWA Festival in Shanghai 2022.
Photo (detail): Zheng Yang © Goethe-Institut Shanghai

Art and culture have the capacity not only to depict our diverse society, but also to inspire us to shape it in an inclusive way.


The international project “Gathering in a Better World” links artists all over the world who live with disability and creates a space in various locations to invent and try out a better world together.

“My work began as a response to my Tourette’s syndrome. Many people do not understand disability. They believe that you are disabled because your body or mind is damaged. What makes me disabled is the failure of the world to accept the diversity of the body and the mind. I am not interested in raising consciousness about one illness or a specific way of living. I am interested in creating a world that's less disabling.”(Jess Thom, Tourette’s hero)

“Our aim is to make art a place in which everyone can create a better world, in which we accept and celebrate differences.”(Camila Barrios, team of curators)

“Each of us gained something different from the workshop. For example, during the symbiotic dance, I was able to rediscover and reconnect with my own body. It was like a small world, which enables me to build a better connection with my own body and to feel the bonds between different people in the dance process.” (Huiheng Su: Mistakable Symbiototic Dance Troupe)

I’ve never done something so amazing in my career. I’m working with incredible artists in A Gathering. I’m going back to reclaim their stories and the work they are doing. I’m interested in a conversation that goes beyond inclusion. It’s how do we return each other to humanity. (Calvin Ratladi, curator of “Gathering in a Better World” Johannesburg)

“GATHERING IN A BETTER WORLD” is conceived of as an experimental,performative, inclusive and playful space for interaction between artists and thinkers who are concerned with social justice and disability on the international level. It was launched as an international network project jointly by Festival Theaterformen and the Goethe-Institut and took place in Braunschweig, Kyoto, Montevideo, Shanghai and Johannesburg from July 2022 to March 2023 in cooperation with Mi-Mi-Bi, Mistakable Symbiotic Dance Troupe, Calvin Ratladi, Nadine Mckenzie and Teatro Solís. “Gathering in a Better World” was supported by: Theaterformen Braunschweig, Braunschweig University of Art, Aktion Mensch, Karin and Uwe Hollweg Foundation, Market Theatre, Centre for the Less Good Idea | SO Academy, Calvin Ratladi Foundation, UNMUTE Dance Company, Yellow Bunny Productions and Trialby- Media (South Africa), Sala Zavala Muniz, Teatro Solís (Uruguay) Alice Hu and Zenghui Zhang in the performance “Midnight Movie”, directed by and Kyoto Experiment (Japan)

Diverse As We Are (DAWA)

The Argentinian writer, journalist and rapper Matías Fernández Burzaco, who, at the age of 22, suffers from hyaline fibromatosis which generates excess skin and covers his body in nodules, will be getting things off his chest as he describes with humour an existence that alternates between bed and wheelchair and is anything but passive. “I am strange, deformed and I will reveal everything about it,” promises the author who, in “My own forms. Diary of a Body at War”, escapes from the existence of a victim; he will be talking to the publisher Lucila Carzoglio and the Chinese artist Liu Yi. (ABC Sociedad: from the article “Dawa, el arte de la integración social“, 17.09.2022)

According to Lynn Fu, disabled artists in China are often viewed through the prism of non-disabled artists. To prove their competence and gain social recognition,  disabled artists need to “hide” their differences and work twice as hard. The artists featured in DAWA, however, have chosen another path. Not only do they embrace their differences, but they also highlight these differences by performing side by side with others and standing firm on their authentic selves. This authenticity transcends the socially constructed standards of being, returns to the root of creative expression, and approaches the ultimate beauty of life. (Weixin: From the article “Celebrating Inclusive Culture: DAWA’s Origin Story”, 15.08.2022)

“DIVERSE AS WE ARE” was the first international festival of inclusive culture in China and was held in Shanghai from 15 to25 September 2022. TThe Goethe-Institut and more than 40 cultural partners and institutions from Europe, China and the world joined forces to create DAWA, a platform for cultural workers with and without disabilities that is distinguished by artistic quality and at the same time promotes an understanding of diversity and inclusion as an integral part of society. The festival included dance performances, art installations, films and workshops, among other things. The festival was funded by the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and European Spaces of Culture, supported by the EU Delegation in Peking and organised and run by various cultural partners and institutions from Europe, China and the rest of the world. goethe.de/dawa

About the author: Susanne Traub joined the Goethe-Institut as Officer for Theatre and Dance in 2012. Since April 2023, she has been Officer for Music.