REPORT ON THE ARTS
It is a hard time coping with the crisis brought about by the global pandemic and all artists, being part of society are affected as well. On the other hand, it might ignite the creative inspiration to reflect on the way our lives are affecting the whole system of existence. As Siba Kourani puts it, Art can be a medium to connect with society. Most or many artists base their works on asking questions and playing a role in provoking society or, in other words, in advocating, playing a part in social change where the community is the audience. But when it comes to where the audience becomes a part of the artistic process, this is where we can use the arts as a tool in creating social change.
However social changes are not positively adhered to in many places, particularly in the third world countries and where there are tyrant regimes. So many artists might face quite a lot of challenges not limited to persecution and death threats. I do still remember that one of the outreach programs we have done in Ethiopia was organizing poetic-jazz events where the writer and performing artists could come to say anything about the established political system or corrupt officials. Mostly, such activities could bring hardship to writers, artists and organizers; they might even possibly end up being blacklisted by the authorities.
A few years ago, Korean artists were exposed to hard times by the previous government where because of a “ government investigation into corruption allegations, a blacklist of 9,473 artists deemed to be ineligible for government support surfaced…” the Korean Times reported. One of them was Bong Joon-Ho, film director, producer and screenwriter of the critically- acclaimed, Academy Award-winning movie, Parasite.
Recently, I came across a valuable online document, “A safety guide for artists”, which has been published online, in French and Spanish versions available as well, in January 2021 by Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a project of PEN America, which manages a coordination and information-sharing hub that supports, unites, and advances the work of organizations that assist artists at risk globally. “A Safety Guide for Artists is a vital tool to help artists access needed support in the face of threats to their human rights,” says Karima Bennoune, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights in the forward of her. The guidebook has six sections ranging from patterns of persecution, defining risk, preparing for risk to recovering from risk. The artists’ voices section has various testimonies from countries such as Turkey, the USA, Cameroon, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Russia, China, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Cuba and Kenya in where artists faced death threats, imprisonment to censorship.
If you are an artist at risk you can download the guide book here: https://artistsatriskconnection.org/guide