“Sense it”, “Noise it” and “Be it”… Arts & Culture Under Pressure publication EU-MENA regions

Revolution and uprisings in Europe, the

Middle East and North Africa are creating

an inherent imbalance in the way the

cultural sector operates. Some realities

were born out of rebellion. Then, they

quickly slipped into a turbulent social

and legal environment. Many cultural

workers can relate to the increasing

political and economic pressures across

geographies and disciplines. Artists,

practitioners, and organizations are

facing intimidations. Their spaces of

expression are shrinking. Restrictions on

groups and stressful working environments

are hindering artistic endeavour. Entities

face risks of bankruptcy or are being

weakened by the lack of funding and


The war in Ukraine is resulting in a wave

of refugees in Europe, bringing additional

pressures to the Arts and Cultural scene.

This forced several actors to leave trying

to recreate their homes and civic spaces

where possible. Driven by the will of

protecting their own existence, those

actors multiply the mediums to raise and

channel their voices. Therefore, cultural

actors face ethical, emotional and

existential questions. Some of them must

migrate towards more centralized locations

in search for opportunities. Others move

to find refuge or seek support elsewhere

because of war and violence.

While migration and traumatic events

are challenging the balances in our

contemporary societies, creators of

independent critical narratives are

getting less room for exercise and

expression. However, the sense of urgency

and care is showing more grounds of

action, alternative forms of mobilization

and artistic practice. Where these

territories are frail, sensitive and

humanly consuming, cultural actors are

finding motifs to enhance their efforts.

They are gaining nuanced ways to approach,

understand and transform these pressures

into media and productions to relief the

burden, reveal the truths and advocate for

their causes.

How to preserve the forces of change?

How to resist and connect with fragile

individuals or groups experiencing trauma

or pressure? What happens when entities

become the community to save? They

become the ones under threat, jointly

with the people they serve. What are the

transferable responses and mechanisms

to strive against and thrive again in

difficult and uncertain times?

This third edition of Arts and Culture

Under Pressure is to hear from artists at

risk in Europe, MENA and beyond. It aims

to create a space to exchange strategies

and practices of resiliency for overcoming

pressures. This publication presents five

stories of transition, Profiles of cultural

realities that are deploying actions to

keep running despite challenges, conflicts

and unrests. Even with the limited number

of stories showcased, their consistency

embraces the complexity and diversity of

responses. This highlights their common

ground too.

You will read about Egypt, Poland,

Sweden, Sudan and other European and

MENA communities. You will dive into the

contexts of practitioners operating under

high risks, yet with a growing sense of

urgency and social duty. They are the most

relevant proposals we have selected through

an open call. We tried to be respectful of

the voices of peers and their strategies.

Therefore, we share the words and images

they chose to invite you to their world(s).

“Sense it”, “Noise it” and “Be it”

represent the three relations we identified

to tell the stories of pressures. These

human capacities in the stories shared

represent attitudes towards the forces

that disturb and disrupt us in the social

and political environment we operate in.

These three choices are supporting the

consciousness of the threat’s origin, the

planning of response, the capacitation

and transformation of resistance into a

suitable alternative. When coming together,

these 3 actions can shape a pathway to

preserve the energies of independent arts

and cultural practices despite the turmoil.


The profile under “Sense it” brings us to

Egypt with El Madina for Arts to speak about

critical pressures turning into an imminent

danger for the organizational vitality

and existence. These can be structural

obstacles like a change in law or financial

regulations and operations permit, forcing

entities to no other choice but closing

and changing operational routines. Sensing

these pressures, recognizing their levels

and their consequences becomes essential

to make informed choices for facing and

overcoming them.


Here, pressures go hand in hand with human

urgency to act and have a say. A call for

the social responsibility of each person

and reality disagreeing with abuse or being

aware of the resources they can bring to

assist whom in need. Cultural actors direct

their channels and invest their abilities

to support the refugee and displaced (Letter

to Mom from Ukraine and Germany), the

forgotten (Mind the Gap stories from Sweden

and Egypt), and the human vulnerability

(Resilient creatives from Sudan). They

make noise to tell important truths about

injustice or weakness to assist and face

these criticalities in solidarity and by

connecting across boundaries. They play a

role in shaping safe spaces, homes to heal,

or experience the fear, the fatigue, or

grow the courage together. They make noise,

making their voices louder in critical

issues in public domain. Cultural and

creatives approaches unfold into valuebased

missions and civic spaces where to

exert their own capacities and emotions;

where to reinvent own processes to adapt in

new changing realities; where to resist,

relief, survive, and reconnect with

dignity, safety and human rights.


Last, pressures are forces carried out by

someone wanting to exert power to influence

the course of other realities against their

own choice. Pressures and influence are a

relation and a communication between two

poles: the power and the counter-power.

“Be it” represents the attitude of some

cultural actors who existed as a “counter

power” to ruling pressures. In Poland,

Arts and culture melt into activism with

Heartbreaking Performance Art Group. They

challenge the status quo and denounce

cruel practices facts publicly and


This publication shares actual threats

for the existence of democratic creative

space. Happy stories and endings are

certainly not the dominant tone of this

publication. Rather, you will experience

“determination”, unpopular choices, and

pragmatic approaches so it hopefully be

contagious and inspiring for you, for your

search of solutions or a critical friend.

The following pages give access to

authentic stories. Feel them, share them

and maybe reach out to their heroes to

bring yours. The more we share promising

truths and clues, the more our solidarity

world can come closer. The more we express

our struggles, the more we can relief the

burden of carrying them alone. And the

more we share the ideas and instruments to

overcome obstacles, the more we can grow

together and influence the world we want

to live in and experience.


Arts & Culture Under Pressure initiative is

implemented in the framework of Bosch Alumni

Network by International Alumni Center Berlin

in collaboration with MitOst e.V. We present

for you a publication with stories around

.pressure. in the Arts and Culture sector.

Through an open call, we gathered voices of

cultural realities in Europe and the MENA

region. With 5 of them, we try to depict the

diversity of responses actors are bringing to


These visual and textual narratives wish to

reverberate with their daring voices. We share

them in the same words the artists and actors

have chosen to narrate their vital impulse

preserving their freedom(s) and cause(s).