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Jean-Philippe Rapp

Director of the IMNSF and organizer of the Jaipur Forum

Fantastic encounters
Five days of celebration, projections, colloquies, a superb exhibition and some lighting effects, were we in India preparing for Diwali or in Switzerland? It was in Geneva, in October 2008. The town was completely absorbed by the event. The colours of the Indian flag were projected onto the famous water fountain. It was the 23rd edition of the International North South Media Festival.

The most important Indian delegation of the year had come to Switzerland.
It included notably Dr Karan Singh, President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the former Chief Minister of Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, the writer Shashi Tharoor, the film director Yash Chopra, the journalist-writer Tarun Tejpal, economists Rajnikant Patel, Janak Mehta and many other famous representatives of art and culture, and from the social and political world. They had responded to the invitation of the International North-South Media Festival (INSMF), which enjoyed especially the close relations between Neel Rapp-Singh and the senior leaders of this sub-continent.

The analysis of the major issues of the future
INSMF has been participating in the debate about cooperation and sustainable development for twenty-four years. Recent problem analysis has been concentrating on the main issues for the future. The end of petrol (2005), the impact of the development of China on the rest of the world (2006), global warming ( 2007) and last year the specialists, researchers, political and social leaders, together with a vast public, were invited to analyse the impressive development of India, which is asserting itself more and more as one of the world’s great powers. Colloquies, documentary films, special evenings notably in the presence of Mme Calmy-Rey, President of the Confederation that year, were highly successful and diffused by many media. Each one recalled that the two countries shared many political values and their handling of multiculturalism.

Then an idea emerged
Then an idea emerged. Why interrupt an exchange of this quality? Why not continue it locally in India with the organizers of INSMF, the Foundation Board. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, through its Department of Development and Cooperation (DDC) decided, therefore, after analysing the options, to make an additional commitment, to allow a greater access to the world. A sort of alternation. One year in Geneva and the following year in a region of the world related to the theme under consideration. What better possibility, for the first occasion than to hold it in India, meeting again with some of the partners who came to Switzerland and exploring in greater depth the questions, themes and projects evoked during the first meeting? With the intention of participating in forms of partnership and supportive activities in a world, where interdependence is fundamental, whatever the size of the countries involved.

From the festival to the forum
The International North-South Media Forum is evolving, as it has continued to do over its twenty- three/four years. This event originally focused on the promotion of film productions and documentaries from the South, in reply to the genuine claim for a rebalancing of the information between developed and developing countries - between the centre and the periphery, between the prosperous regions and those with infinitely less. Then, in the same spirit, attention was focused in parallel on the economic, political and social sectors. Today, there are plenty of fora discussing these questions, but one still needs to achieve a satisfactory rebalancing. Taking into account our language, our history, our culture, we are accessing a zone of influence and exchange, which is not at all universal. We must therefore look even more at penetrating "foreign lands", in order to enrich ourselves with these differences and share our hopes for the future. We must decentralize the places for reflection, enable better access to the territory and extend the conversations, discoveries and desire for mutual action with one another locally. This is why INSMF has decided to take this new direction, which forces people to leave the comfort of international meetings in protected places and to put them in touch with reality, and symbolically, to become an annual Forum, taking place one year in Switzerland and one year abroad.

Reunions and discoveries
What are we expecting from this change? The kind of meetings, where everyone has moved beyond a first discovery of each other, to a relationship of respect and friendship; discussions, which resume again and now go deeper; discoveries, after having imagined the other party in his own setting and culture, meeting him again, but this time in the reality of his actual life. This will take us far deeper than the initial superficial level, into the cogs and wheels of a complexity that one was only partially able to imagine, through a book-like acquaintance, rather academic or journalistic. In order to get to know one another, we have to expose ourselves to events and people. Our identity is made up of the colour of the soil on our shoes, of the way we look at things and people, of our ability to grasp and understand the differences and to convert this into a sustainable enrichment, a readiness to share and to be open-minded.

A world which is losing its balance
However, it is first of all essential to become even more aware that the world is losing its old balance, that the powers are getting weaker, that countries are emerging, that we have to rethink our common universes in terms of data which are changing and overturning our certainties. Fascinating India, powerful India, innovative, painful, torn apart, confronted with the widening gulf between those who succeed and those who live with less than the equivalent of a dollar, India represents an admirable host country. The approach should be made in humility, but with confidence in our values. For the sub-continent is so complex, so abundant, so contradictory that its reality seems to escape us all the time. So, as we have already said, last year in the presentation of the festival in Geneva, we must accept that we cannot be exhaustive and understand that on the first day in India we shall want to write a book, that after one week we shall be able to content ourselves with an article and that afterwards our wisdom will tell us not to write anything any more. To acquire a passion for India, is to agree to let oneself float in the great river of knowledge, of languages, of contradictions, of spirituality and of madness. Then, to pause by the river bank and hope to find oneself at least a little richer in spirit and culture.

The apprenticeship of sharing
The apprenticeship of sharing passes through WORDS, rivers of words which fill books, overflow from discussions and stream through conversations; through IMAGES, heaps of images, natural or artificial, from the tree to the river, from the poster to the screen, from the photo to the pictorial representation. But when they are no longer adequate, MUSIC and DANCING take over. There will be words and images at JAIPUR, but also in a very original way, dancing and music. It is notably through the intersecting movements of the dancers of the Rudra Béjart School-Workshop and of those from Karali-Payatum and the Kuchipudi School that this new edition of the Forum, entitled THE JAIPUR ENCOUNTERS, will most certainly find its deepest meaning. When the interbreeding and the interpenetration of the cultures occur under the very eyes of the participants. There is nothing futile about this approach, which is actually the search for a verticality, which constitutes all mankind’s dignity and his need for exchange.



International Media North South Forum