Posts Tagged ‘art’

Arpilleras making a come back as’ blankets that protect’

February 22, 2020

The success of ‘Art For Resistance: Quilts Of Women Human Rights Defenders’ was a wake up call to do everything in our power to protect the human rights of women. (Photos courtesy of Protection International)

Under the title “The blanket that protects Yvonne Bohwongprasert in the Bangkok Post of 19 February 2020 writes about these quilts as an art form to address human rights and encourage society to stand up and collectively fight for a social cause that impacts people from all walks of life.

Art For Resistance: Quilts Of Women Human Rights Defenders” was one such event with a powerful social message: “Have I done anything today to protect the rights of women?” The social-awareness event, which was launched in 2018, had a record 54 participants — two of whom happened to be men — sharing their personal stories of fighting for human rights in various sectors of society on colourful quilts they stitched together on their own. Besides the exhibition, there was a panel discussion on the situation of women human-rights defenders in a pseudo-democratic Thailand.

The idea of quilts to raise awareness on the issue came from the colourful quilt squares Chilean women used to tell their stories of life under the Pinochet dictatorship, which routinely violated human rights. Despite the lives of these women having been darkened by poverty and oppression, their vibrant and visually captivating denouncements were a strong tool of resistance. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpilleras/

Protection International (PI) Thailand and the Canadian embassy in Thailand, played a vital role in staging this year’s event. PI representative Pranom Somwong said: “Each quilt tells a story of injustice and the fire in each woman to overcome her struggles by acquiring a relentless spirit to seek justice for their families and communities“.

 

A quilt inspired by Buku FC, a Deep South female football club made largely of Muslim women and a few men and LGBT individuals. Rumman Waeteh, left, and Suhaida Kutha, right, created the work. YVONNE BOHWONGPRASERT

Lebanon: human rights defenders use graffiti to express hope

January 24, 2020

The blue graffiti reads: “Oh, my wonderful country.” Photo by Nohad Elhajj.

Since the 17th of October 2019, Lebanon has been in the grips of widespread public protests against the social, economic, and political conditions of the country. The protesters are holding the government accountable for degrading living conditions and demanding serious and drastic changes. ….. But something, equally alive, captivates the place: graffiti. Building walls, stone barriers, wooden panels, even the asphalt ground are all covered with graffiti. With their diverse slogans, creative motifs, and direct, uncensored political and social messages, the graffiti artists collectively illustrate the people’s discourse demanding a full-fledged social and political reform.

On 23 January 2020 Nohad Elhajj – a development practitioner and independent researcher – wrote an interesting piece on this aspect in Global Rights, with rich illustrations:

….. reflecting on the present status of human rights and the human rights movement is of utmost need. More importantly, we need to consider questions about the future of those rights and this movement. In his 2019 article, Thomas Coombes offers a new way to address the future of Human Rights with “hope-based communication” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/30/positive-communication-is-the-only-way-forward-for-effective-human-rights-work/]….

Graffiti is defined as “a form of visual communication, usually illegal, involving the unauthorized marking of public space by an individual or group”. The definition by itself poses a duality; would unauthorized marking of public space become positive communication? Would it possibly shift perspectives? Maybe not all, but some graffiti certainly does convey political messages. The question here is not about authority per se but the disruption of this authority. The act itself is intrinsically disruptive and political whether graffiti is acceptable or not. Starting from this understanding, graffiti, as a visual act, then can be leveraged as a participatory and accessible medium to shift public perspectives on human rights issues. Yet, the human rights movement does not only need to shift the public opinion but also to shift the current governance structures, which is beyond the impact of graffiti. The graffiti in Riyad El Soloh Square is a good illustration of this.

Graffiti is not new to the Lebanese society, but revolution graffiti is particular and powerful because of its relevance, the messages it conveys, and the places it occupies to convey these messages. The graffiti artists practiced their right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and association, while communicating, directly and clearly, human rights demands from women rights, LGBTQ rights, economic and social rights to civil and political rights. (Shown in Pictures below).

……
The Lebanese graffiti artists have pushed and merged both boundaries of political participation and art. The graffiti imposes itself on the observer and on the spaces it occupies with wit and audacity. It overwhelms the observer with emotions of anger, despair, longing and revolt but also with hope. Much of this street art offers a thought-provoking mosaic of entangled messages and images. The graffiti above shows a white pigeon (a recurring image) combined with a strong slogan about workers’ rights; this combination conveys that those rights, and other demands, will be achieved in the future.

Similar to that, the graffiti at the beginning of this article offers another perplexing combination. The whole piece can be read as: “Oh my wonderful country, sectarianism burned us”. As much as it articulates a cry of despair with hurt and agony, it also retains the image of a wonderful country before civil war and a political system that has crippled it for the past 45 years. The generation who lived the war is still lamenting it and the following generations were still living in the resulting divisions and sectarianism—up until the 17th of October 2019. Akin to the protests, the graffiti captured a future hope of a country that will regain its glory after necessary social and political change.

The artists’ urge to mark every visible surface around Riad El Soloh square with spray paint and brushes placed them right in the middle of an already contested political and social scene, and it placed the rights discourse in the middle and around this scene. This graffiti proved to be a strong visual expression of all the protesters’ demands and a way to engage the public with it, both inside and outside Lebanon. Through their paint, these graffiti artists created a distinctive, unprecedented, and positive narrative about human rights in Lebanon: a narrative that more and more organizations and activists are now hanging onto.

https://www.openglobalrights.org/graffiti-creates-positive-human-rights-narratives-in-lebanon/

 

Signatures for human rights: AI Indonesia partners with advertising company

September 14, 2019

Human rights organisation Amnesty International Indonesia has launched a campaign to spread awareness about how a single signature can make a big contribution to ending human rights violations.

According to a press release, it has partnered Grey Indonesia to produce a series of posters that utilise the simplicity of single line illustrations to visually communicate the strength of signatures. The series highlight three human rights issues that “really matter” to Indonesia’s millennial segment – child marriage, gender-related persecution, and the suppression of freedom of expression.

We at Amnesty International have witnessed how signatures can change people’s lives all over the world. With this campaign, we are hoping that Indonesian youth will recognise its power and start to take action for human rights,” said Sadika Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia communications manager.

The posters are situated in the Amnesty International office and its immediate vicinity (Menteng, which is a popular hangout spot amongst the youth). They will also be placed near other touch points and locales familiar to Indonesian millennials, such as trains stations, art galleries and coffee shops, over the next few weeks.

Grey Indonesia ECD Patrick Miciano said: “Grey Indonesia believes in what Amnesty International stands for. It is a humbling experience to be able to collaborate with one the world’s biggest defenders of human rights.

Belgian artist launches a Human Rights Pavilion at Venice Bienniale

May 30, 2019

On Mark Westall reports in Fadmagazine that the Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen has launched a Human Rights Pavilion at Venice.

Belgian artist launches worldwide Human Rights Pavilion at Venice

Coinciding with the 58th Venice Bienniale, Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen has launched the evolving artwork Human Rights Pavilion. In 2021, he will present his completed Opus to the Venice Biennial authorities with a request for a recurring, international human rights pavilion. Koen Vanmechelen firmly believes that art has a role to play in the current debate about human rights, a controversial issue highlighted by globalisation. Are human rights culturally relative? Does the human rights project have limits? Is the existing Universal Declaration on Human Rights outdated and Western- centered, as some claim?

To answer these questions, together with international partners Global Campus of Human Rights, Fondazione Berengo and the MOUTH Foundation, the Belgian artist launches the Human Rights Pavilion. This ambitious project was initiated on the island of Murano, in parallel with the 58th Venice Biennial. Over the next two years, the evolving work will gain weight and momentum through the dialogues, travels, correspondence, explorations and creations of Vanmechelen during a world tour. The evolving pavilion-to-be should gain form through contact with people and organizations involved or interested in human rights. The focal point is Vanmechelen’s adage ‘the global only exists through the generosity of the local.

Vanmechelen: ‘Through my longstanding work around children’s and nature rights, I learned that connecting to others is vital. Underlying the philosophy that unifies my work is ‘every organism needs another organism to survive.’ Survival depends on the survival of the other or SoTO. The Human Rights Pavilion comes together in three chapters: SoTO Dialogues, SoTO Environment and SoTO Legacy. Different partners are invited to contribute to both the artistic research and the development of the artwork, aiming to include as many disciplines, perspectives, and cultures in the creation. At the end of 2020, all inputs will be reworked into a unifying OPUS. This collective memory of our moment in time and space, will be presented to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Commission and the President and Curator of the 59th Venice Biennale of Art. It will be accompanied by a call to establish a recurrent supra-national Human Rights Pavilion as part of the structure of the Venice Biennial.More Info: www.humanrightspavilion.com

Profile of Sri Lankan Marini de Livera: a lawyer and a ‘Woman Of Courage’

May 23, 2019

REBECCA ELLIS published a profile of Marini de Livera under the title “She’s A Lawyer … A Thespian … And Now A State Department ‘Woman Of Courage‘”

Marini de Livera’s plays are not for the faint of heart. In her home country of Sri Lanka, the pro bono lawyer has found that crimes against women and children often take place behind closed doors — in homes, orphanages and schools. With her traveling theater group, de Livera seeks to shed light on the human rights abuses in her country by putting the violence on stage, front and center. “There are beautiful laws in the law books,” she says. “But when I went out to the slums, to the rural areas, to conflict-ridden areas, I found what is in the law books is not a practical reality.”

A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, de Livera has spent her career using theater to ensure that the lofty lessons she learned in law school can be used to assist Sri Lankans who are unlikely to ever see an attorney. Her dedication to helping women and child victims of crime has made her one of the 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage award [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/].

De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She spoke with NPR about her creative approach to addressing human rights in her country, and why she’s focusing on using her theater training to better the situation of children in Sri Lanka’s orphanages.

What are some of the legal issues that women and children in Sri Lanka need help with?

Women and children are denied justice if they’re uneducated, and if they live in rural areas. They don’t enjoy the same basket of human rights that privileged people have because they don’t have access to lawyers.

What needs to happen to accomplish that?

There has to be legal literacy. These women and children have to know what the laws in the country are and what their human rights are. If they are educated about their rights, they can go to court and demand them.

You’ve often used theater to promote this legal literacy in Sri Lanka. Can you give me an example of how this works?

One of my favorite plays I put on was about corporal punishment. I went to a Catholic school where a priest was hitting boys every day. I explained to the school that there are different forms of violence – cultural violence, psychological violence, physical violence. Then I asked the boys to make a play about their experiences with violence. And one of the boys reenacted what the priest had done to him. [It helped] these boys find an outlet to say, “We don’t want to kneel down when we come late to school. We don’t want to be beaten by a cane.”

How did you come to see theater as a way to educate the public on their legal rights?

I had been a lecturer in law [in Sri Lanka], and one of the things I had to teach was U.K. law principles. And the students were bored to death. So I said, these are the books, you read, then you tell me what the rule of law and separation of powers are through a performance. I realized if I could use this in the classroom, why not in the village to simplify the law?

What is your theater group working on now?

I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.

Past reports have found that over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. These parents are often unable to provide for their children or the child has a disability and requires extra care. And sometimes the children are sent to such an institution because of a criminal offense.

Orphanages should be the last resort. So I’m promoting alternative care. Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.

You mentioned earlier that this prize is the first time in your life you felt appreciated for “walking in the opposite direction” from others in the law profession. Do you have hopes other attorneys will follow in your path?

I’m very unhappy to say each time I go to court people come up to me like a swarm of flies and say, “We don’t have a lawyer to appear on behalf of us.” I want to take all the country’s young attorneys and train them to be another Marini – to clone myself. Because I have to hand this on to the younger generation.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/08/701212104/shes-a-lawyer-a-thespian-and-now-a-state-department-woman-of-courage

Sketching for freedom of expression at the Frankfurter book fair

January 8, 2019

Designers try their hands at human rights issues in seven countries: Sudan, Nicaragua, Colombia, Russia, Kenya, Mexico and Burundi

November 9, 2018

Seven designers work with human rights activists to develop tools for change

We Are Human Rights is a project spearheaded by Dutch designer Bernhard Lenger. He paired seven designers with human rights defenders from around the world and asked them to work together to develop tools for change. The results, which were showcased in an exhibition for Dutch Design Week 2o18, tackled issues ranging from illegal settlements in Nicaragua to the criminalisation of homosexuality in Burundi. Lenger first launched We Are Human Rights at Dutch Design Week in 2017. In an interview with Dezeen at the time, he said that designers can’t solve real-world problems on their own. “We are only a small cogwheel in an enormous machine,” he said.

“We are investigating new opportunities for design, to identify where designers can play an important role in our world,” said Lenger. “With these seven projects we are showing a variety of how design and international topics can come together, but also want to invite governments and private organisations to work together with us,” .

Each team was given three months to devise a solution to one particular issue.

The first project, How I Became an Ally from Not Giving a Shit, is by Rotterdam-based designer Daeun Lim. It is a digital platform that connects those who are interested in human rights activism in Kenya.

We Are Human Rights projects
Dauen Lim’s project is a digital platform that connects those who are interested in human rights activism in Kenya
We Are Human Rights projects

International Human Rights Arts Festival in New York: 3-5 March 2017

March 3, 2017

International Human Rights Arts Festival to Feature HAMILTON Dancer, Bessie Winner and More

2016 Bessie Award-winning choreographer Joya Powell brings her Movement of the People Dance Company to the premiere International Human Rights Art Festival, New York City‘s first arts-advocacy festival of its kind. The Festival, presented by The Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, co-sponsored and housed at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St, NYC), will take place 3-5 March, 2017. As part of the Dance portion of the festival, Jessica Chen of J Chen Dance project is working with three additional dance companies to create human rights-oriented dance. Jacqueline Dugal will also create a piece incorporating human rights texts.

Tickets are $10-25 and are now available online with full schedule and participant information at www.dixonplace.org.

Dance can help translate unspoken fears and emotions…” noted Jessica Chen, of the J CHEN PROJECT, “the nuances of a leg held up, a body launched into space, a gesture of yearning is immensely powerful. For this festival, we will use movement and choreography to enhance the conversation about critical human rights issues.”

J CHEN PROJECT Commissions: Jessica Chen of JChen Dance Project comissioned works will be based in and incorporate a specific textual inspiration, ranging from the words of great human rights defenders (such as MLK Jr. or Gandhi) to a bland recitation of statistics on refugees, civilian war deaths, famine due to autocratic governments etc. The four pieces, comprising an hour of dance, will run both Saturday and Sunday, and be previewed at the opening festivities. Saturday, March 4, at 10:00 pm; Sunday, March 5, at 4 pm (see below for full lineup)…

 

The International Human Rights Art Festival will bring together more than 70 artists producing more than 40 events, all of them oriented toward advocacy. Artistic media will include theatre, performance, dance, spoken word, painting, photography, music, literary arts, workshops, panel discussions, a kidsfest (hands-on activities to introduce children to using art for socially-transformative purpose), film and others. Rigorously curated for quality as well as content, the event includes some of New York’s most passionate rising artist-activists. It will raise social, cultural and political issues, as well as offering gentle, positive responses through thoughtful beauty and political and social thinking.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Producer Tom Block, a 20-year activist painter, author, playwright and arts producer, as well as creator of the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival (MD, 2010) is bringing the concept to NYC, with the 2017 International Human Rights Art Festival. The event is part of the growing number of initiatives of the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art, which Mr. Block founded last year to teach, learn from, and work with New York’s activist artist community. www.tomblock.com

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto

April 16, 2015

On 15 April 2015 the New York based Human Rights Foundation announced that the laureates of its 2015 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent are:

  • the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement Girifna,
  • the Indonesian stand-up comedian Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and
  • the Cuban graffiti artist and activist El Sexto.

Girifna, Arabic for “we are fed up,” is a nonviolent resistance movement founded in 2010 by pro-democracy youth activists. Thousands of Girifna members work together to monitor crackdowns on protests and defend dissidents in spite of constant surveillance by the Sudanese authorities. “While the international press focuses its attention on Sudan’s history of armed conflict, Girifna has challenged the al-Bashir regime in novel ways—from producing humorous commercials to teaching citizens the art of nonviolent protest…” said jury chairman Thor Halvorssen.

Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is a stand-up comedian from Indonesia whose comic routine advocates for individual rights and challenges Islamic fundamentalism. She grew up watching U.S.-based comedians and decided to use the same medium to talk about issues plaguing her own country. Television producers have asked her to censor her jokes, but Ma’ruf, who believes comedy mirrors a culture’s hypocrisy, has refused to be silenced. “Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is marshaling the use of parody to challenge oppression and extremism—no small risk for a woman in Muslim culture. She is an inspiration,” said Amnesty International Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenæs.

El Sexto, whose real name is Danilo Maldonado, is a Cuban graffiti artist and activist whose public work has turned him into a formidable dissident, evidenced by the ongoing repression he suffers. This past December, El Sexto was arrested on his way to put on a performance art piece called “Rebelión en la Granja,” with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl.” El Sexto was charged with contempt and remains in prison awaiting trial. “Through his art, El Sexto reveals the intolerance of the Cuban regime,” said former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.

For more information on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/václav-havel-prize-creative-dissent

The ceremony on 27 May will be broadcast live online at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 16:00 CET; for more info contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@thehrf.org

2015 Havel Prize Awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Cartooning for Peace Award handed over by Kofi Annan in Geneva

May 5, 2014

3 May 2014 Cartooning for Peace award, Geneva (c) THF

3 May 2014 Cartooning for Peace award, Geneva (c) THF

In case you noticed, my post of yesterday about the Cartooning for Peace Award came a day late; sorry. The award ceremony took place on Saturday 3 May, International Day for Press Freedom. To make up for the error here are the winners (Palestinian-Syrian Hani Abbasi, and Egyptian Doaa Eladl), in company of inter alia Kofi Annan and municipal councillor Guillaume Barazzone. The exhibit remains to be visited along the Quai Wilson in Geneva until 3 July 2014. Also present were the well-known cartoonists Chappatte, Plantu et Liza Donnelly. More information and links in my post of yesterday:

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/cartooning-for-peace-international-award-and-exhibit-in-geneva-as-from-today/