Meeting another person for the first time is a fine experience. You fumble for words, looking for a topic of conversation that both can pick up, while testing each other’s opinions in search of similarities and differences. Meeting one hundred people for the first time in one week is bewildering. There are many topics of conversations to be found, many matters of opinion to be tested. Do you think so? Have I really thought this through? What opinions are important to me?
In 2012, during one summer week, young adults from 37 countries got together on the island of Tjörn in Sweden. They were members of IOV Youth, the youth section of International Organization of Folk Arts, and were all involved in some form of folk art; among them were dance teachers, graduate students of folklore, weavers and restorers. They had travelled from five different continents to an island on the Swedish west coast in order to find people to work with, test their ideas on, and develop a network with. IOV Youth was to be given a clear structure supporting the activities of the members in their home countries and their opportunities of networking.
During one week there was sharing of experiences, laughter and tears. Sometimes it was intense, sometimes it was frustrated. After a day of many and long discussions there was dancing on the lawn and tensions were released. Handicrafting, dancing and singing
together became a common language when the spoken language was tied up. When the participants met in folk art there were few misunderstandings and the results were exciting.
We believe that folk art can be a tool for tolerance, cultural diversity and peace, and that is why we organized this congress with the aim of giving young people a chance to meet across cultural and national borders and to address the issues they consider most important. The struggle for peace, justice and democracy is not a project, it is an ongoing activity. The IOV World Youth Congress 2012 was one step of many that need to be taken. Together we can work for a better world!