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The South-South Arts Fellowship (LAI, Cambodia)

Living Arts International (LAI) incubates cultural initiatives that contribute to a peaceful, sustainable future, using the living arts as a catalyst for change. LAI began in Cambodia and is shaped by its identity as a grassroots, post-conflict, non-profit organization. At the core of our vision lies the imperative to nurture leadership across the cultural sector from within the Global South.

After decades of work in Asia, through Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) and Mekong Cultural Hub (MCH), where we been supporting cultural workers in Cambodia, southeast Asia and beyond, since 1998 and 2018 respectively, the South-South Arts Fellowships (SSAF) is LAI’s first program under the banner of Connecting South.

The importance of fostering connections among cultural organizations, networks, and practitioners within the Global South has been emphasized consistently over the last decades. In UNESCO’s 2022 Global Report, Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity – Addressing Culture as a Global Public Good, this imperative is once again highlighted. UNESCO has called upon its member states to enhance financial support for the purpose of promoting knowledge sharing and networking among cultural operators in Africa, Asia (including west Asia), Oceania, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

It is in response to this long-standing and well articulated need that we, at LAI, initiated the SouthSouth Arts Fellowships. We believe that the Global South can serve as a pivotal platform for nurturing, sharing, and advancing a collective narrative that unites us and underscores our commonality. Irrespective of how we self-name ourselves, we are a community of cultural practitioners and networks hailing from the South, who share similar economic and social contexts and constitute the majority of the world’s population, often referred to as the “majority world,” in the words of Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam.

In recent years, we have seen a growing interest in engaging with cultural practitioners from the Global South and in establishing equitable modes of interaction, especially in the context of North-South relationships. In this context, it is indeed time to reassess and reimagine the rules of engagement, both within the Global South and in our interactions with the broader global arts community.

Much like the Global North, which has developed its distinct cultural infrastructure and modes of engagement, we, too, can cultivate our unique approaches to engaging with one another within the Global South, inspired by local practices and traditions. Through our experience with the SSAF, we have once again recognized the pivotal role played by local intermediary cultural organizations in nurturing networks within the Global South. This concept has been articulated previously, as early as 2013 by On the Move.

These intermediaries, working at the grassroots level, act as vital bridges between funders and artists/operators. Their contribution to network building cannot be overstated, given their deep community connections and acute understanding of local needs, priorities, languages, and contexts, even when faced with limited financial resources. The role of such intermediaries in connecting the Global South is of utmost significance. Effective programming, intercultural communication, an in-depth grasp of local context, and strong facilitation skills are just as critical as financial support when it comes to promoting connectivity within the Global South. We trust that the insights shared in this report will prove valuable to you to continue fostering connections with and within the cultural and creative sectors in the Global South.


In 2022, Living Arts International (LAI) launched the pilot edition of the South-South Arts Fellowships (SSAF) to promote wider and deeper networks within the Global South, particularly among cultural workers and groups actively programming and facilitating transnational initiatives and networks in their own region and beyond.

LAI was specifically seeking network builders and facilitators with experience in bringing together and creating opportunities for other creative practitioners and cultural workers in the Global South. The fellowship aimed to offer opportunities for such facilitators to both advance their existing work (locally, regionally or internationally) and meet new peers from other parts of the Global South with whom they could cross pollinate networks through collaborative activities. The fellowship was open to individuals and groups working in arts, culture, and/or heritage in over 100 developing economies in Africa, Asia (including west and central Asia), and Oceania. The fellowship also welcomed applicants working at the intersection of culture and conflict transformation in their societies.

Six fellowships were awarded in June 2022, running for a span of 13 months until July 2023. Fellows were expected to bring with them ideas to further develop their ongoing initiatives: such initiatives were expected to respond to a specific locally felt gap in the fabric of South-South connectivity and be in the early or mid-stages of development. Fellows were provided activity grants (of $3,000 USD each) to steer their ongoing projects to their next stage of development. To this end, fellows curated and executed an activity in the first phase of the fellowship.

Beyond their ongoing pursuits, fellows were encouraged and supported to co-curate and co-organize up to three collective activities in the second and final phase of the fellowship. These collaborations were meant to cross-pollinate African and Asian projects and networks. A collaborative activity grant (of $20,000 USD shared among all six fellowships) was made available for the joint projects.

In addition to the activity grants, the fellowship provided additional forms of support to selected candidates. Fellows received stipends for their time and ideas. Expertise from three advisors shaped individual and collective projects through workshops and personalized sessions. The LAI team organized a series of virtual peer exchanges, first to introduce the fellows to each other’s work and contexts, and later to support peer reviews and joint development of project ideas. As the fellowship journey drew to a close, a final workshop brought together fellows, advisors and organizers to share reflections.


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