Sevinj Aghazada: "Culture is the best ambassador for any young and developing country making its introduction to the wider world"
Sevinj studied International Economic Relations at Western University in Azerbaijan, and worked with international educational organisations such as the American University in Baku and International House Baku. She joined the British Council in 2011 and became the first Country Coordinator of the EU/British Council co-funded IDEAS project in Azerbaijan, a seven–country project which had the aim of increasing the involvement of people with disabilities in policy decisions which affect these people and their lives and opportunities – an ambitious project, working between local civil society action groups, the media, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. In April 2014 Sevinj was appointed as Azerbaijan Country Coordinator for the EU-funded Culture and Creativity Programme, and brought to this exciting new responsibility - her knowledge of programme operations, her organisational skills, her dedication and charm, and a great interest in the arts and in seeing the cultural sector develop further.
About the Programme activities that are planned in Azerbaijan this year
The Programme is coming to life in Azerbaijan with a series of training workshops and visits over this summer and autumn.
In late April, George Carey, respected British documentary filmmaker and television journalist will be setting up a meeting with Azerbaijani cultural expert Jahangir Selimkhanov, looking at the ways in which the media can support the culture and creativity sector and make more widely known the econcontribution of this sector, talking with an audience drawn from different mass media across Azerbaijan.
The EU-Eastern Partnership Programme Associates initiative focuses on the development of future generation of cultural leaders in Eastern Partnership region and capacity building for managers. The selected eighteen people are most of them young leaders in the creative industries and the cultural sector, and they work in different fields – in galleries, design, fashion, festival and films, performing arts, publishing, from state, private and non-governmental sectors. Over the next few months, there will be training workshops for this group.
About the role of culture in society
Azerbaijan as a country has both ancient and modern roots, and our culture is the reflection of our history.
From my point of view, culture is the best ambassador for any young and developing country making its introduction to the wider world. Since 1993, when foreign oil companies started operation in Azerbaijan, they started to sponsor new projects to present our cultural treasures – both the artefacts and buildings, and the intangible heritage, and our skills and artistry. Since then, young and talented representatives have taken Azerbaijan’s culture to different parts of the world and opened Azerbaijan up as a land of fire and oil, beautiful nature and talented people. Culture is how a nation sees itself, and how it appears to the outside world, and both of these matter a lot.
Culture helps to bring all kinds of general positive impact to the society – some familiar, some unexpected. It is known that investments in culture increase the socio-economic development of a country. Key policymakers need to hold high the standards of national culture; people need to own their own culture and know it as a living current that runs through our lives; and young people need the skills, the belief, the income and the networks to keep that current flowing. For these reasons, I believe, our Creativity and Culture project is very timely, very necessary, and I’m proud to be working on it.
5 main cultural events in Azerbaijan
Well, at the state level, Azerbaijan is hosting 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilisations in April 2016. Every year, the Forum brings together governments, foreign ministers, civil societies, religious communities, as well as professional organizations, a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue from all over the world. The focus is on social inclusion – this is Year of Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan – but there’s a significant cultural programme too.
Azerbaijan has shown the potential to organise wonderful large-scale events. The opening of the Baku 2015 European Games, directed by Dimitris Papaioannou and involving more than five thousands Azerbaijani participants, sportspeople, dancers, was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have ever seen – very poetic, very magical, very Azerbaijani. We’ll see if this year’s Formula One Grand Prix brings anything similar…
Another big event to take place next year is 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue will be held in Azerbaijan in 2017. The World Forum, also known as the “Baku Process”, was initiated in 2008. The previous forums were held in 2011, in 2013 and in 2015. “Baku Process” has become a global platform for exchange and discussion on major contemporary challenges related to intercultural dialogue and the sharing of related universal values, which have become pressing issues to address in our globalized and more and more diverse societies.
A very significant event I would like to highlight is Space of Mugam International Music Festival. The Festival is a feast of music from countries that share the spirit and wonder of mugham. The art of mugham is nowadays not only the valued asset of Azerbaijan only, but an integral part of the world’s cultural heritage. The ancient art of mugham is bringing together artists, musicians and scholars from various countries to Baku.
I would also like to mention about Uzeyir Hajibeyli Music Festival which will take place in September 2016.