According to jazz virtuoso Wayne Shorter, the power of women was shown to him at an early age, especially through the example of his mother.
In a video introduction to ICAP’s most recent exhibition, Voices of Change—The Power of Women, Mr. Shorter, an ICAP co-president, relates the story of how, despite a worldwide economic slowdown, his forward-thinking mother regularly provided her children with items they could use to fire their imaginations and bring out their creative talents.
The Voices of Change exhibit debuted at this year’s 45th Montreux Jazz Festival, where it was on display July 1–16. Placing the spotlight on female musical artists who have appeared at the Festival over the many years, the exhibition gives expression to vital role women play in recognizing humanity’s most pernicious problems and to how they are engaged in finding solutions.
From Alicia Keys to Patti Smith to Ella Fitzgerald, the Voices of Change exhibit recognizes a wide array of artists who, as the exhibition’s welcome panel states, “are taking leading roles in the quest for peaceful solutions to problems as well as equal rights . . . The talented women portrayed here . . . devote themselves to causes ranging from the plight of homeless women to AIDS awareness.”
This year’s exhibit was the latest in a series of annual exhibitions that began in 2004, when ICAP formed a major partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival. In addition to yearly exhibitions at the Festival, ICAP has sponsored many workshops on themes related to peace and culture, and has bestowed worthy individuals with its “Humanity in the Arts” peace award.
Festival founder Claude Nobs expressed his appreciation to ICAP and Daisaku Ikeda for their continued contributions to the Festival.
Further cementing the connection, ICAP board members Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter have performed frequently at the MJF. And this year, Mr. Hancock, Mr. Shorter, bassist Marcus Miller, trumpeter Sean Jones and drummer Sean Rickman honored the great Miles Davis, their friend and mentor, with a tribute performance.
The Miles Davis tribute took place in the festival’s main venue, Stravinski Auditorium, and the Voices of Change exhibition was presented in the Stravinski lobby, where some 80,000 concertgoers viewed the striking and colorful displays.
Kerstin Vignard, chief of Projects and Publications for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, Geneva, Switzerland, said: “I appreciate over the years ICAP’s participation at Montreux Jazz Festival, because it provides an amazing opportunity for the international community not only to be introduced to ICAP but to be inspired through music and also through the work and values of musicians and artists from around the world. Each year, [ICAP’s participation is] a way of outreaching to a whole new community across ages, cultures and languages. It’s wonderful work.
According to Ms. Vignard, this year’s exhibit was particularly inspirational to her as she’s learned more about how these performers have been living their lives as forces for change. “Joan Baez, for example—as a folksinger, she has been at the forefront of social change for decades. There are others represented whom I knew as musicians, but I did not know about their values and what they were working on personally, their leadership roles. This gives a new dimension to their work and lives.”
The vital role of women as constructors of peace is powerfully and succinctly recognized in the statement ICAP founder, Dr. Ikeda, contributed for his panel in the Voices of Change exhibit: “Throughout the long history of humanity, women have suffered the most whenever society has been wracked by war, violence, oppression, abuse of human rights, disease and famine. But it has been women, in spite of this, who have persevered in turning society in the direction of good, in the direction of hope and in the direction of peace.”
The exhibition’s featured artists and personal statements include the following:
- India.Arie, UNICEF Ambassador: “The worst disease in the world is hate, and the cure for hate is love.”
- Joan Baez, folk singer and activist for peace and human rights: “That’s all nonviolence is—organized love.”
- Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer known as the “First Lady of Song”: “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
- Alicia Keys, one of VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: “How we treat the poor is a reflection of who we are as a people.”
- Angélique Kidjo, singer and UNICEF Ambassador from Benin: “My parents taught me to be a person with a social conscious—and that what you give is never lost.”
- Miriam Makeba, the legendary “Mama Africa”: “I look at an ant and I see myself—a native South African, endowed by nature with a strength much greater than my size so I might cope with the weight of a racism that would crush my spirit.”
- Sade, Nigerian-born singer-songwriter, composer and record producer: “You can only grow as an artist as long as you allow yourself the time to grow as a person.”
- Oumou Sangare, women’s rights advocate and renowned singer from Mali: “I speak of the women of Africa and of the whole world. I fight for the improvement of women’s situation. So I sing her cause.”
- Patti Smith, “the poet laureate of punk rock”: “Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.”
- Suzanne Vega, a singer/songwriter: “To me, a feminist belongs in the same category as a humanist or an advocate for human rights.”