ASTANA, Kazakhstan — What is the impact of art on our perception of the world and our place in it? How can the arts evoke the highest ideals in people and inspire them to contribute to social harmony? And how can religion inspire beauty in art?
These were among the questions explored by artists and the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs in Kazakhstan as part of a discussion series titled Promoting the Well-being of Society.
These discussions, which are part of the Office’s long-standing efforts to participate in the discourse on social harmony, bring together practitioners from different disciplines to examine how their field can contribute to building a cohesive and prosperous society.
Timur Chekparbayev of the Office of Public Affairs explains that reflecting on the expression of beauty in art brings to mind thoughts of harmony and the upliftment of the human spirit. The arts, he says, can enable people to perceive nobility in their fellow human beings.
“It is difficult to imagine social progress and a peaceful world without recognizing the significance of the arts in bringing about positive change, bridging divides, and fostering a sense of unity,” said Mr. Chekparbayev.
Participants noted, however, that the arts have also been used as a means for distorting people’s perception of human nature and fanning the flames of division.
Another member of the Office, Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, added: “If the potential of the arts for promoting peaceful attitudes is to be realized, then those engaged in artistic endeavors can benefit greatly by cultivating a hopeful outlook and applying spiritual principles to their work.”
Filmmaker Aziz Zairov echoed this sentiment, pointing out that creative works imbued with a deeper meaning can bring people closer together. “Socially conscious artists weave meaning into their creations, infusing their work with an energy that resonates with the soul. Such works can remind people to see their place in this world as improving the lives of others.”
Nataliya Bazhenova, painter and art teacher at the Kasteev Museum, spoke of the importance of fostering in people an early appreciation for creativity and beauty. “Art provides a means for self-expression,” she said. “When properly nurtured, artistic endeavors can elevate a person’s purpose and direction in life.”
Mrs. Bazhenova added: “I have been teaching children for many years at the museum, and have seen how they change, how they begin to see beauty in the world. It is difficult for a person to grow without this attraction to beauty.”
These discussions highlighted the complex and multifaceted relationship the arts have with society. The arts can serve both as a means to promote social harmony and as a rich and varied expression of human creativity and experience that have the potential to inspire and uplift people’s vision of the world.
Reflecting on the approach to this discussion series, Ms. Yangaliyeva says the principle of consultation at the heart of these conversations enables participants to see each other as partners in exploring the nuances of social issues. “This approach avoids adversarial relationships, enabling a richer exploration of the root causes of challenges,” she says.
The Office of Public Affairs will continue to explore topics related to the discourse on social harmony, including the role of the media in fostering unity, and the equality of women and men.