While working at The Laura Pels International Foundation, I was introduced to the distinguished Martha Coigney. Typical of Martha, she went straight to the point and rather than asking what I did, she wanted to know who I was. Overwhelmed by such a complex question, I started from the beginning:
My journey began in Paris, France, where I was born and raised by Jewish parents who had emigrated from Egypt during the 1950s’ civil war. By my mid-teens we moved to the United States. Integrating to North American culture was not an easy task for me. I encountered cultural phobias, misunderstandings and unwarranted stereotypes. I had the great fortune early on to get drawn into Latin American literature and culture and traveled there extensively. I became an adopted “Latina” speaking fluent Spanish with a French accent.
The scope of my cultural umbrella widened and prompted me in later years to become an advocate, a cultural mender, a “cultural agitator” as Martha had called me. I dreamed of building bridges between cultures where none were available; to present another perspective, a voice from the “other”, from those left behind, those whose cultures and traditions are forbidden or misunderstood, or just forgotten.
As a woman with an artistic soul, I choose the arts as an expression, as the medium to expose the hidden or the vision with a different “face”. Sometimes I work on a cause, such as promoting women artists to become more visible. Other times, I help facilitate an art project, a play, a film, a book, that resonates bravery, exposes injustices and human foibles. Sometimes I foster cultural exchanges between the US and countries that were/are “off the map”. I also organize international art festivals and art events, empowering the human spirit to strive for communication across borders, for expressing its deepest fears and dreams, or just for preserving its tradition, its truth and heritage.
Perhaps, I am this “cultural agitator” and cannot remain still until we can all embrace, understand, respect and maybe, hopefully appreciate each other’s unique talent and vision to make this world a little more human.
Joyce Maio is a multi-lingual consultant who builds cross-cultural and international collaboration, developing, strategizing and managing projects in the performing arts; promotes contemporary expressions focusing on cultural exchanges. Co-Chair of the International Committee’s League of International Women in Theatre. Previous experiences: Laura Pels International Foundation, Queens Theatre in the Park, American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba