“Unshuttered voices” an IFEX exhibit and a call to action

May 19, 2021

Matt Petras in the Shit.nes of 18 May 2021 reports how IFEX, a global freedom of expression network, partnered with the International Free Expression Project (IFEP) earlier this month to launch a street-level art exhibition in Pittsburgh displaying the faces and telling the stories of brave practitioners and defenders of free expression from around the world, including slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/70b0bee4-9af2-40c6-a11e-5b9ad159b96f]

The exhibit, which draws from IFEX’s Faces of Free Expression series that profiles “changemakers,” can be seen by anyone walking by on the street, housed in street-level windows of the massive, historic former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette building. The PG, which has since relocated elsewhere in the city, has won Pulitzer Prizes for its journalism and continues to serve as the most prominent news outlet covering the Pittsburgh region for nearly a century. At an opening ceremony kicking off the exhibit’s launch, a small group, including beloved PG columnist Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, and IFEP founder Greg Victor, gave small speeches lauding the ‘Faces of Free Expression’ project.

Those honoured in the ‘Faces’ exhibit represent thousands of others from across the world who are fighting this struggle as well,” Victor said at the event.

Vietnamese singer Mai Khoi performed at the event. Khoi was already a popular musician in her home country when she became more and more of an activist as she experienced increased censorship of her music by the Vietnam government. Often compared to Lady Gaga and Pussy Riot, Khoi performs unique, exciting, and often politically charged pop music. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/de4d9180-f67a-11e9-9715-b5590d668968]

Portrait illustrations, blurbs and quotes adorn several sets of vertical, rectangular windows facing the street in Downtown Pittsburgh. Most of the windows contain a single portrait or bit of text but the exhibit also boasts some larger spreads that incorporate clusters of nearby windows to create bigger images, such as a wonderful photo of Khoi against a black background, joined by a short biography for passers-by to read.

Other individuals featured include Nabeel Rajab, a human rights defender jailed in Bahrain for tweets critical of the government, and Agnès Callamard, a lead investigator into the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia. [see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/6C9DB4EE-91C2-A69B-3839-6D1D5EC91AD1]

Jamal Khashoggi and Daphne Caruana Galizia are among the journalists and human rights defenders featured in the exhibition. Photo: Matt Petras.

The faces of the project represent just a small selection of the individuals responsible for the fight for freedom of expression.

“All of these people, they’ll say they didn’t do it alone, and they didn’t,” Game said. “It takes so many people, who get up every day in their work, to do this kind of advocacy, to address these kinds of challenges.”

IFEP hopes to incorporate its ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ proposal into the historic PG building, which would create a space for artists doing important work. “Being artists ourselves, having a place like this would be great,” Jones said.

Brown appreciated the exhibit and the goals outlined by IFEP for what it represents for his neighbourhood. “This is something Pittsburgh needs, being able to have your voice be heard and your expressions,” he said.

Yet the message of the ‘Faces of Free Expression’ exhibit extends far beyond the images and text on the wall that people can see on this street in Pittsburgh. “It shows this has a global impact,” Game said. “It brings the many free expression issues the world is facing to this wall in Pittsburgh.”

https://theshiftnews.com/2021/05/18/unshuttered-voices-a-collaboration-an-exhibit-and-a-call-to-action/

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