In this fast-changing world, we must do more than simply cling to the past - we must make it matter.
There is always some element of our past in the things we do in our future. This is why the power of tradition and storytelling is so important. We need to preserve these gifts - in painting, sculpture, music and literature. All of these are ways to tell a story of the past so that it will be preserved for the future.
All my life, I have been drawn to stories and storytelling. Humans have an innate desire to connect to one another. Stories allow us to encounter different views, customs, and beliefs - they offer a window into the human experience. Throughout history it is the story that continues the tradition. Think of the cave paintings in Lascaux... These early works of art were stories meant to teach others, recording traditions sacred to their people and providing instruction and guidance for their future generations. Move through the centuries and our collective memory falls on the Chinese terracotta army, the tapestry at Bayeux and even the graffiti on the walls of the rooms in the Tower of London.
This month, Europe remembers its fallen soldiers lost during a century and a half of terrible conflict. Not long ago, the millions who watched the remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London saw for the last time veterans of the First World War, their numbers dwindling and faces receding into history. This year, half a century after the guns were silenced on the Somme, the ranks of veterans from WWII are fading from us. We will always remember their valor and sacrifice through their stories -- their words reverberating around the world during a two-minute silence.
We live in a global village where stories appear at the touch of a screen. The medium has grown bigger but the message remains the same. Lascaux was the Twitter feed and Facebook page for a community 180 centuries ago whose world stretched only as far as they could see. Their stories were discovered at the outbreak of World War II. Lascaux is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its message is known all over the world.
The thousands of unique traditions I have encountered through my life inspire me; I am captivated by the rich practices of cultures around the world. They are bursting with diversity, customs, and traditions that shaped civilization throughout time.
My paintings and sculptures are my form of storytelling. I document the cultures I witness for future generations so that they can look back with pride on their own heritage and also appreciate the many different cultures that enrich the world.
After a lifetime as an artist, I feel I am now embarking on my most ambitious and important project. I believe in the power of love and its ability to bring peace and understanding. The seeds of my new artistic journey, entitled Love and Peace, were sown many years ago. I hope that as my creation takes root and blossoms across the planet, it will bring people together to share their stories and understand others. I hope many people will come on this journey with me, and through the universal language of Love and Peace, be a part of this great event.