Peace and Culture: The Arts in the service of Peace”.

Kyoto University of the Arts




Tokyo, Japan

23 November 2021


H.E. Yutaka Tokuyama, Chairman, Board of Directors,
H.E. Takahiro Niwa, Vice-President of the University,
H.E. Sukehiro Hasegawa, Distinguished Professor at Kyoto University,
H.E. Yasushi Akashi, Former Under-SG and SRSG of the UN for Cambodia and Yugoslavia,
Mr. Takehiro Kano, Deputy Assistant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Tadamichi Yamamoto, Former SRSG for Afghanistan,
Mr. Naoto Hisajuma, Director-General of the Secretariat of the International Peace Cooperation,
Mr. Toshya Hoshino, Former Ambassador to the UN and Professor at Osaka University,

Distinguished Ambassadors from ‘g7+’ countries,
Distinguished Deans of Faculties and Departments from Kyoto University of the Arts,
Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Students,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this University of the Arts to share a little of my vision on “Culture and Peace” with you, young artists.

I would like to start by thanking the Kyoto University of the Arts for the academic Award it has bestowed upon me today. It is a great honour - and perhaps a source of inspiration for me to dedicate more time to painting, which is something I always loved, but which circumstances did not allow me to pursue.

Arts provide human beings with knowledge, harmony and happiness. Arts build citizenship and consolidate development. This is true for any period of history, but never truer than in the most critical times, both for individuals and for the world as a whole.

However, not everyone has the gift possessed by you, my dearest students of the Kyoto University of the Arts. Sadly, creativity is a talent that is increasingly rare and that is not nurtured enough in our societies.

Faced with many competing priorities, politicians tend to pay little attention to culture. While they may consider it a less critical sector, I believe it is just the opposite.

Culture is an important structural element in any society. I say that culture and the arts should be present in the lives of everyone, from toddlers to senior citizens, and particularly those in the higher echelons of leadership.

You, the creatives, may assist humankind in achieving what it needs the most: a world of peace, tolerance, mutual respect and solidarity.

You, my dear students, have the ability to work in a context of ambivalence, contradiction, complexity and change, so common in today’s world.

You have a superpower! You are able to transform the unpleasant world around us into something beautiful and stunning, which imbues us with hope. Culture, and particularly the arts, brings people and ideas closer and can have a liberating effect.

I think that is why I went back to painting and poetry during my seven long years as a political prisoner. I went from an idealistic guerrilla fighter to an idealistic prisoner, and it was culture that helped me to endure imprisonment. While the Timorese resistance continued to fight against a dictatorial regime and an illegal occupation, I felt powerless... and the only place where I could find relief from my frustration and anguish was in the arts.

It was during this search for lost dignity and for the determination to continue fighting the powers that be of an international system, so indifferent to the Timorese suffering, that some people were kind enough to label me as a “painter and poet”.

Back then, I used to proclaim:
“(...) Cultivate love and love Peace!
We were brothers,we are brothers
In the pain of THE STRUGGLE
We are brothers, we will be brothers
In the freedom of PEACE.”

My dream of finding a world of peace did not grow dim, neither when I was inside a prison cell nor now, that I am free once more. But there are others who remain prisoners... imprisoned in lives of poverty and conflict.

Millions of men, women and children yearn for freedom. The world cannot take any more violence and misery. The world does not need more hubris, ambition and opportunism. The world needs dialogue and passions that mobilise people towards the common good. Read More…

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