What it is we’re communicating, how are
we communicating, how do we actually realize our human potential?
That is cognitive and emotional and that’s where the arts and culture come in. What is
freedom for? Art represents a form of individual expression
that is a sort of bulwark for any democratic society. Art is representative of human engagement
with ideas. To have our autonomy, to be able to be or
become ourselves. Arts provide the opportunity to have the experience that we are independent
human beings. A song or a painting may have been created
for a purpose of a kind: recreation, entertainment, or for social justice.
Freedom of expression of all kinds but certainly artistic freedom of expression is absolutely
fundamental. When you find that people can’t just say
and do and express what they feel, you already know you’re in deep trouble.
We should protect artists by not defining their role, by giving him the margin he defines
for himself for his creativity. If you look at the history of authoritarian
societies, it’s often underground cultural producers that are at the vanguard of thinking
about how to oppose the regime and sometimes quite innovative and alternative ways.
Anything that was an alternative, an expression of civil society we were ready to support.
It is the forces outside of government, from journalism to artists to human rights advocates,
who help a society hear others, see others, and recognize claims of justice as legitimate.
God Loves Uganda is the story of the damage that American evangelicals are doing in Uganda.
We’ve screened at well over a thousand churches throughout the country. We’re having a discussion
and a conversation, and I think it is making a difference. When I take photographs, I’m not just out taking photographs.
And I’m not just producing art. I don’t look at people that I photograph as subjects.
I look at people that I photograph as participants. These are the people that we make history
together. I’m basically trying to create a family
album, and it says that you are not alone. And it basically says that you won’t die
alone because you have family members everywhere. I was approached by the director. It seemed
like a very interesting project. Romeo and Juliet, where each ethnic group will be playing
one family, and parts of the play that were spoken in Albanian won’t be translated and
vice versa. That’s the whole message of the production:
that you have to understand each other if you want.
This border between the actors sort of disappears. We make ethnographic comic books. It’s about
giving them voice to tell their stories of which we are the producers. We did a comic
called Almaz about an Ethiopian woman who went to Saudi Arabia and was sexually and
physically abused. And when I went back to Ethiopia, I saw the
comic being used in schools to talk to young girls about the dangers of being a domestic
worker. The educational and the advocacy impact is
huge. Art has this impact on changing minds and
perceptions. We do conduct yearly field visits to places of military conflict.
Places like Iraq where artists are trying to document quickly before it disappears what
is happening around them. This is actually the place where artists need
our support the most. Imagination is creativity, and without that,
nothing moves. In struggles, artistic expressions are indeed the essence of fighting for an
open society. My work is focused more on a reaction of the
situation that I live. The installation in the interests of Albanian
parliament was about showing the visibility of Romani people. When people ignore us, we
have to show that we are here. And I build these works in places that have
witnessed trauma, that have conflicting narratives. And particularly of the story of migration
from Africa to Italy. And it’s going to be the first Arab opera
that’s going to play at the Royal Opera House. And I think when people come to the exhibit, they have an immediate sense of what the foundation cared about. The illumination of these significant human rights issues. And many of us saw terrible things. No one person could tell that collective story.
So we’re looking at visual storytellers, people who make a series of frames, which contextualize each other. So they tell the story through a set of images.
Communicating with youths through rap, hip-hop, and other means, bringing the marginalized
groups into the mainstream. The hope is in the collective. It’s in the
fact that there are these women who are doing these struggles and who are withstanding this
incredible threat against them on a daily basis. Discovering ourselves and projecting ourselves in the future. Art will completely change the moment, enable action where there was fear, many things can
happen from a piece of art. We realize that when we bring people together
in dialogue that actually change can happen. Through the eyes of an artist, we can actually
aspire to the reality that doesn’t exist today. We can picture that, and it allows us
to move forward.