Today (21st May) marks the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity: a day that celebrates cultural diversity as a tool for making the world a more sustainable and peaceful place for all. As an organisation that works to share the beauty of other cultures through books, toys and games, we wanted to take a moment to talk about why this is so important to us!
Why culture matters
It's hard to overstate how important culture is to personal identity and strong communities. People who are deeply embedded in cultural groups—whether that group is based on heritage, religion, or anything else—tend to feel more secure, happier, and better able to cope with the ups and down of life.
How resilient we are may have as much to do with our social milieu and circle of support as it does with our personal strengths.
Not only does a strong connection to your own culture matter, but a Welsh study also found that those who engage in cultural appreciation in general (through attending performing arts, theatre, music, festivals and other cultural events) were 54% more likely to have high self-reported life satisfaction.
Research aside, it only takes a moment to think about the various ways we practice and find joy in our own culture and appreciate the culture of others. Whether it's through food, music, dance, story or a shared sense of humanity, culture is an important way for us to find common ground with one another.
Our future depends on culture
We are constantly exposed to new and diverse cultures. This exposure is important because it shapes who we are and how we think. We grow intellectually when we understand how different people live, as well as their opinions on various issues. When we become ignorant of other cultures, we lose our ability to empathise with people around us, which increases our likelihood of misunderstanding and disconnecting from one another.
A recent global study showed that 69% of people have noticed their communities growing in cultural diversity, but only 45% of people said they thought this was a good thing.
When we take the problem of not being able to empathise or relate to different people, and look at it through a global lens, things look pretty scary. The UN estimates that roughly 75% of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. So for the UN, building cross-cultural understanding is urgent and necessary work for peace, stability and development.
As a global community, it’s important that we continue to promote cultural exchange. We need to learn how to grow and solve big problems together, not apart.
Creative expression is changing
As budgets tighten and governments cut spending, funds for cultural and creative programs—regardless of how effective they may be—are often targeted first. In our own backyard, funding for arts and cultural heritage is set to decrease 10-13% over the coming years, with many of Australia’s cultural institutions – who are already under pressure when it comes to preserving cultural heritage – facing significant cuts.
For creative professionals, who often bear the weight of protecting culture, the last few years have been extraordinarily tough. Pandemic measures around the world meant that cultural events were cancelled, institutions were closed, community practices suspended, cultural tourism declined and artists were unable to make ends meet.
Instead, we're witnessing an explosion of digital content being produced. While it's now easier that ever to interact with content and people from all kinds of cultures, it's important to note that this work usually isn't paid or sustainable for the makers behind it.
Ensuring funding for artistic organisations, cultural groups, and creatives from all backgrounds helps to ensure a wide variety of creative work continues to emerge, in turn, increasing our understanding of our differences and similarities.
How you can support diverse cultures
Because cultural expression is woven into the fabric of our society, there's no shortage of ways to support and sustain different cultures.
1) Get out and enjoy cultural events
Whether it's a film festival, a food market, community theatre or anything in between, there are so many ways to learn about and enjoy different cultures. If you're in Victoria, we love keeping up with City of Melbourne's Whats On guide. Feeling time crunched? One of the benefits of the pandemic is that many events are now offering hybrid (online and offline) events, making them accessible to a broader range of people. Check out the Sydney Opera House's digital collection or for something further afield, check out these digital exhibitions from India, United Arab Emirates, and China.
2) Find your new favourite creators
As mentioned, the incredible amount of digital platforms and content mean it's now easier than ever to connect with and learn from many different people. Whether it's cooking classes on YouTube, dances on TikTok or beautiful photography on Instagram, following and supporting diverse creatives is a powerful new way to support culture and the arts. With more and more people offering subscription based content, or selling products online too, you can easily up your support if you're in a position to.
3) Engage with your local organisations
Whether it's reading their newsletter, learning about their events, or supporting their initiatives, showing support for cultural organisations is a powerful way to ensure they're funded into the future. We love reading the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Creative Victoria and City of Melbourne newsletters to stay across what's happening.
Have thoughts you want to share about this piece? We'd love to hear from you! Reach out to us here.
📸 Top photo by June Famur Jr.