By showcasing and discussing diversity and inclusion in arts, culture, sports, and beyond, “Diverse as We Are” – International Festival of Inclusive Culture (DAWA) brings together artists and creatives with and without disabilities from China, Europe, Asia and the world.
Disability is still an uncomfortable topic in China, often seen in a medical context of patient and treatment. Options available for people with disabilities to prosper are limited. Some independent artists with disabilities start to create works to claim more social inclusion, emphasizing the person and not the disability, asking EU partners for support and visibility. Local institutions, including the Shanghai Municipality felt the urge to enable more access to education, culture, and society.
Deafness is a cultural identity, not merely a matter of hearing loss. Sign language is a gateway to equal opportunity, not merely a language just for us.Alice Hu, deaf artist and activist
“Diverse as We Are” – International Festival of Inclusive Culture (DAWA) provided a completely new concept in China celebrating diversity and inclusion through rarely seen artistic productions and avantgarde cultural expressions and aimed to build bridges between disability communities, local audiences, and cultural institutions. The festival connects and empowers underrepresented groups of the art scene and society, calls for more access, and inclusion in cultural life through public engagements such as performance, exhibition, film, talk, and others.
Increasing accessibility to education, culture, and society
It was essential for DAWA to include voices and perspectives from the disability community from the very beginning throughout the whole production process. For example, the DAWA visual and merchandising design was done by two designers with disability, the key visual was double-checked by members with physical disability to ensure that everyone feels included, and the quality of audio descriptions and sound logo were approved by blind people.
The festival took place in Shanghai in September 2022, with accompanying events happening before and afterwards. Partnering with local art museums, theatres, and festivals, DAWA presented a cultural programme as of over 35 contributions and events from artists with and without disabilities hailing from Europe, China, and the rest of world. The festival featured various performances, exhibitions, sports events, workshops, movies, and public discussions.
The programme was made as inclusive and accessible as possible by conducting accessibility check of venues, access supports such as sign language interpretation, audio-description, and personal assistance. At DAWA, intercultural exchange happened in performances, exhibitions, sports events, workshops, films, and public discussions involving artists and creatives with and without disabilities from Europe, China, and other parts of the world.
With its accessible programme, DAWA reduced barriers and inequality of people, contributing strongly to the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Quality Education (SDG 4), Sustainable Cities and Communitites (SDG 11), Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Global Partnerships (SDG 17).
We believe one of the best things about DAWA will be its legacy of leaving impact for cultural organizations and its staff to have more awareness for the people with disabilities and keep showing care and support in the long run.Li Jiyuan and Lu Xiangdong, founders of beYoureyeS