Roundtable Discussion with Cuban Artists

10.12.2015

Welcoming Remarks by Ambassador Martin Dahinden, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States of America

At the Occasion of a roundtable discussion with Cuban Artists

The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

 

Speaker: Ambassador Martin Dahinden

Thank you for your gracious invitation to participate in this roundtable with Cuban artists.  I am very excited to be here with you today.

Throughout my professional career, the arts have played a significant role. Not as an artist, though, but as a diplomat, as a journalist, and as an editor. The arts have always helped me to understand and appreciate experiences I had little knowledge of beforehand.

At the core of every artist’s work is transformation:  an idea becomes a play; a feeling becomes a piece of music; a visible or even an invisible reality becomes a painting. Without transformation, there would be no art. Such transformation has always fascinated me. It is not linear, but rather an open process with an open result. Artists transform the world of the imagination into an object or an action, thereby giving a shape to the invisible; unveiling what has gone unnoticed; and giving a voice to the voiceless.

But there is a second type of expansion:  the arts also provide us with a bridge and a door to unknown worlds or to worlds that might be difficult for us to understand otherwise. There is hardly anything more fascinating than standing before a work of art, encountering its aura, deciphering its meaning and discussing it with other people. Those are the bridges and doors to uncharted territory.

When I headed the agency responsible for Swiss humanitarian aid and development cooperation, I encouraged my colleagues to support the arts and to engage with artists for those very reasons. I am a strong believer in that approach to this day.

Switzerland was the protecting power for the United States in Cuba from 1960 and then the protecting power for Cuba in the United States from 1991. Even though those mandates came to an end this summer, Switzerland has a special place in its heart for Cuban culture and for Cuban culture in the United States in particular.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Cuba, where I was briefed about its history. However, my knowledge only scratches the surface of all there is to know. I am very eager and excited to learn more this afternoon.

Thank you.

 

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