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Soft Diplomacy


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In a world where international political relations are often dictated by a lumbering softly-softly approach, the power of cultural initiatives to forge more immediate and relatable links between countries cannot be underestimated. Creative innovators from the fields of Australian film, art, music and cuisine frequently find themselves at the cutting edge of diplomacy, their entrepreneurial efforts finding traction in the dynamic new cultural markets of Asia in exciting and unexpected ways.

Arts Centre Melbourne and AsiaLink are co-hosting this look at who is leading the soft power agenda, what demographics Australians are influencing, and where the future for creative diplomacy initiatives is headed.

Moderator Doug Hall was one of the people behind Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art and is the former Australian Commissioner for the Venice Biennale. Making up the panel are Katelijn Verstraete, the regional director, arts and creative industries at the British Council East Asia, along with Parmesh Shahani, CEO of Godrej India Culture Lab, Kate Ben-Tovim (freelance creative producer who has worked with DFAT’s Oz Fest India, Arts Centre Melbourne and London Cultural Olympiad to name a few), and Rei Maeda (Art Front Gallery, Tokyo), who will discuss the Fukutake House Asia Art Platform, Setouchi Triennale 2013.

Other leaders and pioneers from the realms of arts and business will be among the audience, actively participating in this open and far-reaching discussion. Join them as we explore the future of international cross-cultural relations.


Katelijn Verstraete

Katelijn Verstraete is currently the regional director, arts & creative industries at the British Council in East Asia. Before this, she was deputy director, cultural exchange at the Asia-Europe Foundation. She has extensive experience in developing multi-stakeholder platforms between Asia and E... Read more

Parmesh Shahani

Parmesh Shahani, listed in 2012 as one of 25 Indians to watch out for by Financial Times, is the head of the Godrej India Culture Lab – an experimental idea-space that cross–pollinates the best ideas and people working on India from across the academic, creative and corporate worlds to explo... Read more

Rei Maeda

Born in Yokohama, Japan, Rei Maeda is the Coordinator for Art Front Gallery and editor for Gendaikikakushitsu Publishers. Rei graduated from Tokyo University and its post-graduate school (majoring in French Caribbean literature). She has worked as coordinator for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennal... Read more

Kate Ben-Tovim

Kate Ben-Tovim has been a creative producer for Oz Fest India, Arts Centre Melbourne, London Cultural Olympiad and more. In 2014 she was named a Sidney Myer Creative Fellow and is consulting to a range of Australian organisations on new models for Asian cultural engagement. ... Read more

Doug Hall

Doug Hall is a widely published writer and critic. He was director of the Queensland Art Galleryǀvert;GOMA 1987-2007, where he began the Asia Pacific Triennials and initiated the Gallery of Modern Art and oversaw its development and opening 2006. He was the Australian Commissioner for the Venice... Read more


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