We, the Western optimistic people, we are very often talking, open heartily about how important bridges are built, mainly in conflict situation, by the power of arts. The intellectuals elites from two countries in conflict can change over time the negative reciprocal perception by intensifying the cultural dialogue, through exhibitions, participation to art and literature fairs, public conferences etc.
But, what we, the Western optimistic people, omit to mention is that in many situations, the very idea of being able to travel - financial reasons, but also the visa regime - is almost impossible.
A couple of days ago, I was listening a conference about how difficult is to create collections of contemporary artworks from India, Pakistan and Central Asia given the bureaucracy and the complicate goods and travel requirements. And I was not surprised to hear this, as I know very well the situation from Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism - when the huge enthusiasm to travel free outside the borders of the prison-country they used to live in for decennials, was faced by the long waiting lines in the front of the embassies of the Western countries, begging for visa. Or, how it was in some former Yugoslav countries, where the political and military disagreements made almost impossible for a long period of time - a very important one for a theoretical post-conflict healing - valuable cultural contacts. And the same I've heard as well from African musicians, tired to run from a country to another for applying for visa for France or Germany, and to be rejected, very often.
The non-optimistic conclusion: public diplomacy is representing an important tool in bringing people together, but let's use public diplomacy as well for conquering a free space for arts and intellectual understanding. Here, I am maybe too optimistic.