Culture Action Europe’s research “In Search of Equal Partners: On being a SWANA artist and cultural worker in the EU” reveals particular circumstances, realities and patterns of SWANA artists and cultural workers residing in the EU and determine which are the main challenges to living a fulfilling professional life as well as cooperating with other EU peers. And this, in the light of the COVID-19 crisis which has abruptly aggravated those working and living conditions. The paper was developed in the framework of the “Engaging with SWANA/MENA cultural agents in the EU” project, supported by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
The objective was to involve this community in advocating and shaping European cultural policies and funding schemes that are more inclusive and better safeguard fundamental rights (including working conditions, mobility, freedom of artistic expression and gender equality). The process of finding the way forward, including getting in touch with the community and outlining an adequate methodology for the action are in themselves an extremely valuable outcome both in terms of the conclusions and in terms of future advocacy strategies.
MENA is an internationally acknowledged acronym for the Middle East and North Africa. However, experts in the reading panels indicated a clear consensus that the MENA term should be avoided, as it is rooted in colonial cartography that places England at its centre, and the term South-West Asia and North Africa (SWANA) was suggested instead.
The proposed methodology entailed a desk-based research review of all available information in all the EU Member States on legislation and policies that might affect the SWANA community in terms of the three themes of the project – working conditions, mobility of artists and cultural workers and freedom of artistic expression. Following the preliminary desk research, reading panels with experts and community representatives were formed to further elaborate on challenges that are relevant to advance action and advocacy at EU level.
The purpose of the series of consultations and collective research with the SWANA community of artists and cultural workers within the EU, led by the main researcher Yamam Al-Zubaidi, was to deliver practical results by formulating policy recommendations and advocacy actions, mainly addressed to European institutions but also to the cultural sector community itself. The “In Search of Equal Partners: On being a SWANA artist and cultural worker in the EU” publication synthesises the conclusions of this collaborative research and the areas of recommendations stemming therefrom in order to intensify further advocacy on the issue of the situation of the SWANA artists and cultural workers residing in the EU.