Here at True Colors Festival, we are one big family of artists, creators and planners. Miki Nozaki, TCF’s program director and producer of two of its latest initiatives – CARAVAN and TCF in Azerbaijan – gives us a window into these productions that are about crossing all kinds of boundaries across geographies, languages, cultures and abilities.
By True Colors Festival Team
Name: Miki Nozaki
Accolades: Trained in visual arts and gallery studies, Miki brings her professional expertise and passion for the special needs community into socially engaged arts productions such as the 2017 and 2020 Yokohama Paratriennale and various Slow Label inclusive circus initiatives. She advocates for causes such as inclusivity and diversity, and often participates in productions that cast a diverse range of performers, from the young and old, to the special needs community.
Q: TCF CARAVAN is currently underway and you are one of the personnel driving this project. You’re also a producer of the concert in Azerbaijan – how is the CARAVAN experience helping in your concert preparations for Azerbaijan?
Although TCF CARAVAN and TCF in Azerbaijan are separately developed, the highlight of both is the fact that we can travel out of Tokyo, meet new audiences and artists, and learn what Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) mean in the local context. I think it is very important to have conversations about D&I with those who come from different backgrounds. From the previous two CARAVAN events, I learnt about the power of live performances – it brings different people together; provides a deep experience. Though I may not fully understand the audience in Azerbaijan, the power of a live performance can be felt universally.
Q: This is the first time that TCF will be holding a concert in Azerbaijan! What excites you about it? You’ve been there once so far, as part of the preparation – what are some memorable encounters with the people which you experienced?
Previously, I only spent three days in Baku for the concert preparations. Despite such a short period, I met many people who were enthusiastic about D&I. For this event, we will be fully supported by the Inclusive Vocational Arts and Crafts Training Center, a facility comprising studios, a small theater and a cafe for people with disabilities to develop their art and craft skills. There were some music, dance, painting and woodwork programs going on when I visited it. In each program, participants with and without disabilities got the chance to experience the arts together. It was nice seeing the inclusive community growing there.
Q: What are some aspects of the concert that audiences should look forward to?
This concert is not just a showcase of Japanese culture, but the result of a collaboration between Japan and Azerbaijan. Along with Japanese artists, there will be Azerbaijani artists performing too, and a couple of pieces will be created collaboratively. I’m excited to be able to make this happen and I’m really looking forward to the audiences witnessing the chemistry on stage.
In addition, this is actually the first TCF event happening abroad since the start of the pandemic. With our current travel restrictions, we are privileged to be able to visit another country, meet new people and explore their local culture. I believe this experience will inspire the artists a lot. I’m looking forward to sharing what they discover on their journey, not only with the audiences in Azerbaijan but with our Japanese and international audience as well. I hope this experience can be conveyed through our social media and website.
Q: This collaboration with the National Abilympics Federation of Azerbaijan is all about celebrating 30 years of ties between Japan and Azerbaijan. The two countries appear to be different culturally. What are some of the things they have in common?
As my first visit to Azerbaijan was too short, I was not able to discover their local culture sufficiently. However, what I have learnt from my experience is that our cultural differences do not impede our work towards a common goal. I’m curious to see how the artists from both countries view and react to the cultural differences and similarities when we return this month.
Q: What is the one message that you hope audiences will take away from the concert?
While this event commemorates the diplomatic relationship between the two nations, it is my personal wish that this show can capture the power of interpersonal friendships. With this concert, artists transcend the boundaries of disability, nationality, language and culture by striking up friendships and working on a production – a common goal. I think this is how D&I begins.
Q: The message of the True Colors Festival is “One World One Family” – what do these words mean to you?
To me, the core message of D&I is about accepting and caring for one another. It is just like being in a family. This is a common concept that can be understood by all even if we come from different backgrounds. I think this message is crucial for developing international solidarity and in making the world a better place for all.
This article has been edited and condensed.