• Adam Fischer, Chief Conductor
• Alessandro Petti, Architect and Researcher
• Alexander Cheparukhin, General Director of GreenWave Music
• Arshad Hussain, Actor and Culture Activist
• Asli Erdoğan, Writer
• Azhar Usman, Comedian, Activist & Lawyer
• Deeyah, Music Producer, Composer, Human Rights Activist
• Donatella Della Ratta, PhD fellow
• Frances Harrison, Broadcaster and Writer
• Fredrik Gertten, Film Director
• George Gittoes, Painter, Photographer and Filmmaker
• Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Playwright and Screenwriter
• Héla Fattoumi, Dancer, Choregrapher and Co-Director of the National Choreographic Centre of Caen
• Jonatan Stanczak, Co-Founder and Adm. Manager, The Freedom Theatre
• Kenan Malik, Writer, Lecturer & Broadcaster
• Larissa Sansour, Visual Artist
• Lars Ø. Ramberg, Artist
• Maran Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now
• Manny Ansar, Founder and Director of the Festival au Desert
• Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, Poet, Filmmaker and Screenwriter
• Mustapha Benfodil, Writer and Visual Artist
• Nadia Plesner, Visual Artist
• Nikolay Oleynikov, Artist and Cultural Activist
• Ole Reitov, Journalist, Programme Manager and co-founder of Freemuse
• Outspoken, Artist and Community Activist
• Pang Khee Teik, Arts Consultant and Human Rights Activist
• Pelin Başaran, Arts Producer and Researcher
• Petr Lom, Filmmaker
• Rachida Triki, Film Director and Researcher
• Robert Sember, Artist and Researcher
• Sherine Amr, Singer
• Si Han, Curator
• Sigrun Slapgard, Writer, Foreign Correspondent and Board Member of Fritt Ord
• Sondos Shabayek, Writer, Theatre Director and Actress
• Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programmes, National Coalition Against Censorship
• Tania Bruguera, Visual Artist, Initiator and Director of Immigrant Movement International
• Tenzin Gönpo, Musician, Singer and Dancer
• Tenzing Rigdol, Visual Artist
• Terakaft, Desert Blues Band
• William Nygaard, Publisher and Defender of Freedom of Expression
• Win Maw, Musician and Composer
• Yngve André Søberg, Opera Singer
• Zanele Muholi, Visual Artist
• Zarganar, Comedian, Actor and Film Director
• Robin Denselow, Broadcaster, Producer and Journalist.
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Adam Fischer, Chief Conductor
At the end of 2010 Adam Fischer resigned as Music Director of the Hungarian State Opera in protest against the controversial media law introduced in Hungary and the rise of anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia in Hungarian society.
Fischer began studying conducting and composition at the Liszt Ferenc Academy, and studied further with the legendary Hans Swarovsky in Vienna. He regularly conducts at major opera houses and leading festivals in Europe and the USA. His collaboration with the Wiener Staatsoper began in 1973, and he has since conducted a large number of performances and highly successful premières there. In 1984 he made his début at the Paris Opera with Der Rosenkavalier and in 1986 at La Scala in Milan with “The Magic Flute”. In 1989 Fischer made his début at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden with “Die Fledermaus” and in 1994 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with “Otello”.
In 1998 Fischer became Chief Conductor of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in Copenhagen, with which he has recorded all “seria operas” by Mozart. Fischer and the orchestra are also working on a CD box with all Mozart symphonies. In 2001 Fischer gave his first performances of Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” at Bayreuth. These were met with outstanding international media acclaim and culminated in him being named “Conductor of the Year” by the German periodical Opernwelt.
• Article: International Arts Manager – Comment: Adam Fischer on artistic freedom in Hungary
• Article: Article: Reuters – Conductor Adam Fischer: Wagner’s music like “opium”
• Danish National Chamber Orchestra
Alessandro Petti, Architect and Researcher
Alessandro Petti is an Architect and Researcher in Urbanism, chair of the Urban Studies and Spatial Practices program at Al-Quds/Bard College Palestine and director of Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program centered in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. Petti is founding member and director of DAAR, an architectural office and an artistic residency program that combines conceptual speculations and architectural interventions. DAAR was awarded the Price Claus Prize for Architecture, received the Art initiative Grant, shortlisted for the Chrnikov Prize and showed in various museums and biennales around the world. He has co-curated different research projects on the contemporary urban condition, including Borderdevices, Uncertain States of Europe, and Stateless Nation, and his work has been presented in various biennales and museum exhibitions. He has written on the emerging spatial order dictated by the paradigm of security and control (Archipelagos and Enclaves, Bruno Mondadori 2007).
Born in Sevastopol, Crimea, USSR (now Ukraine), Cheparukhin graduated 1983 with a background in physics, economics and music, and became a post-grad (doctorate) of Moscow State University, Department of Economics/Environmental Economics. Alexander has worked in an array of areas – as a student he organized free semi-legal rock concerts, he was Chairman of Youth Council on Nature Protection of Moscow University, research fellow at the Museum of Earth Science and founder of GreenWave – the Ecology Club of Moscow State University.
Since childhood Cheparukhin had dreamt of exploring the world, but due to USSR’s communist party committee it took time before he could venture into the world outside of the USSR. It was not until 1988 that he could travel abroad, working as the president of ASEI, co-author of Russian TV documentaries about USA, France and the UK. He has arranged “Children of Chernobyl” charity organisations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria – and was also active as a environmental and political journalist for Austrian and German press.
In 1991 he registered GreenWave Ltd as one of the first Russian tour operators, specialized mostly in US and Caribbean music. Cheparukhin has also been artistic director and producer of various music festivals such as: “One World” festival (Moscow), “Silk Road Music” (Festival of Asian Arts), “X-Block Reunion Festival” (London), “Creation of Peace Festival” (Kazan), “Viva Cuba!” (Moscow) and many more.
Cheparukhin is currently the artistic director and producer of Music of Freedom festival, Sayan Ring Festival (world music) and Dvizhenie (Movement) Festival.
• Webpage: greenwavemusic.ru
Arshad Hussain, Actor and Culture Activist
Arshad Hussain holds a master degree in Urdu litterature from University of Peshawar. He started his career as an actor and voice compare in 1989 with Pakistan Television. As leading drama actor he has received numerous awards and recognition on regional and national level. Apart from acting, Hussain also work in the development sector with different national & international and government departments as development and program specialist. In 2007 he established an artist welfare organisation promoting art for peace and social change.
In October 2008 Hussain was abducted by unknown kidnappers demanding a ransom. They also wanted Hussain to quit show business because it is not accepted by Pukhtoon Wali (code of honor) and religion. He was kept in chains in a dark room for nine days, but was released when his family paid the ransom. The kidnapping has caused a lot of stress and also medical issues, but in spite of pressure from the kidnappers as well as his family and friends, Hussain decided to continue his work.
Hussain has founded an organisation for victims with similar experiences as himself. The organisation is a support group, but also strives to educate and fight for artists at risk. He is a culture and music activist, currently working as program manager for the Takhleeq development foundation (TDF), a performing art and culture organisation.
Born in 1967 in Istanbul, Asli studied computer engineering (B.S. In 1988) and physics (M.S. In 1993) at the Bosphorus University. She worked as a research physicist at CERN (European Laboratory of High Energy Physics) between 1991-92 and completed her thesis there.In 94,she started her Phd on Higgs at PUC (Brazil) but quit science a year later. Her first novel and published book”The Shell Man” came out in 1994 when she resided in Brazil, she then returned to Turkey in 96 and published her second book ”The Miracalous Mandarin” the same year. But her major ‘breakthrough’ came with ‘The City in Crimson Cloak“, in 1998 which was translated into several languages.
She was also the Turkish representative of International PEN‘s Writers in Prison Committee from 1998 to 2000. Asli then started to write a column in the intellectual paper, ‘Radikal’. Her column, ‘The Others’, in which she touched on taboos such as as prisons, torture, the Kurdish issue, womens rights etc. brought her both fame and trouble, and she was fired in 2001.
After a long silence, in which she had to face a lynching campaingn, she published a book of poetic prose, ”In the Silence of Life” and received DUNYA, The Book of the Year Award. In 2010, she worked for Radikal and was fired again. She started to write a column for ”Özgür Gündem”, the kurdish paper. As a result, she is currently in exile, in Graz, Austria. Her texts have been adapted to theatre (performed in La Scala, Milan), dance theatre, classical ballet, radio and film (in France). Her life was also turned into a documentary by Osman Okkan among 6 writers, including Orhan Pamuk and Yashar Kemal.
• Webpage: aslierdogan.com
Azhar Usman was born in Illinois, Chicago in 1975 to Indian parents. He is a former lecturer, community activist and laywer, and is often referred to as the “Bin Laughin” or the “Ayatollah of Comedy”.
Azhar early on had a flare for the philosophical, with study of wisdom traditions, spirituality, organized religion, and Sufism. After earning degrees in Communication and Law he practiced law, and then fell in love with stand-up comedy. He considers himself a “citizen of the world”, and describes himself variously as follows: “Intellectually White; Emotionally Japanese; Spiritually Indian; Psychically Persian; Physically Arab; Artistically Southeast Asian; Romantically Latino; and Psychologically Black.” Today, Azhar is a global stand up comedian who makes people laugh by telling the truth.
He is the co-founder of the wildly popular “Allah Made Me Funny—Official Muslim Comedy Tour,” which has toured over 20 countries (on Earth). He has appeared on radio and television dozens of times as well as in a handful of indie films. Azhar considers himself a language maven, Googaholic, Wikipaddict, and avid fan of Dictionary.com’s “Word of the Day” mailing list.
Deeyah, Music Producer, Composer, Human Rights Activist
Critically acclaimed as a singer and following years of constant intimidation, physical threats as well as failed abduction, Deeyah stopped performing in 2006. Her success had led to confrontations with Orthodox Muslims and she now devotes her time to promote human rights and freedom of expression through a range of self started initiatives and creative outlets. Born and raised in Oslo, to Punjabi and Pashtun parents, Deeyah immersed in music from an early age, and had the rare privilege of being trained by Pakistan’s famous singer, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan. Deeyah has published several CD’s and worked withl international artists such as Police guitarist Andy Summers and sax player Jan Garbarek.
In 2009 she was awarded the international “Freedom to Create Prize” alongside Cont Mhlanga, The Zimbabwean playwright and Belarus Free Theatre. Deeyah is a Freemuse ambassador, and compiled the CD “Listen to the Banned” for Freemuse. In 2007 she founded Sisterhood encouraging young Muslim women’s artistic expression. Deeyah also runs FUUSE a social-purpose music and film company, and is currently producing her first documentary Banaz: A Love Story, adressing the phenomenon of honour klilings within immigrant communities in Europe.
Donatella Della Ratta, PhD fellow
Donatella Della Ratta is PhD fellow at Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional studies, New Islamic Public Sphere Program, Copenhagen University (Denmark) and at the Danish Institute in Damascus (Syria). Her PhD work revolves around the production and distribution of Syrian TV drama. Donatella has published several chapters in collective books on Arab TV industries and two monographes on Pan Arab satellite channels.
• Blog on Arab media: mediaoriente.com
• Twitter: @donatelladr
Frances Harrison is a broadcaster and writer who for many years worked as a foreign correspondent for the BBC, posted in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Iran. She’s interviewed Presidents and child soldiers, fashion models and Ayatollahs. Frances was the first woman to run the BBC office in Tehran and one of the first foreign correspondents to combine frontline reporting with being a mother. She’s passionate about freedom of expression and has been involved recently with exiled Sri Lankan journalists.
She was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, as well as the School of Oriental & African Studies, and Imperial College in London. Frances has been Head of News at Amnesty International and was a visiting research fellow at Oxford University while writing a book of survivors’ stories from the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, called Still Counting the Dead.
• Article: Journalism.co.uk – Frances Harrison: My double life as mother and foreign correspondent
• Article: INSI – The war may be over in Sri Lanka, but it is still not safe for journalists there
• Book: Still Counting the Dead – Survivors of Sri Lankas Hidden War
Fredrik Gertten is an award winning director and journalist based in Sweden. He founded WG Film in 1994. Before that he has worked as a foreign correspondent and columnist for radio, TV and press in Africa, Latin America, Asia and around Europe. Gertten combines film making with a role as a creative producer. He is famous for local stories with a global understanding. Several of his films are catching the identity and transformation of his hometown.
Dole Food company made his film BANANAS!* controversial by suing the film company, producer and director. The fight for the film and freedom of speech won international recognition. In Sweden it was awarded with several prices including the Anna Politkovskaya freedom of speech award.
In his next film, Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, Gertten documented what happened to the film BANANAS!* and himself when Dole Food company decided to stop the film. It is a personal story about the freedom of speech and the power of multinational companies.
George Gittoes, Painter, Photographer and Filmmaker
Australian artist George Gittoes has set up mobile studios for three decades, creating works in regions of conflict and upheaval around the world. He is working in areas which are usually the reserve of journalists and his work catches the complexity of individual circumstance, of human frailty, empowerment and survival, against a backdrop of world issues.
Gittoes gives us a powerful, close up response to conflicts best known to us from the nightly news – famine and peacekeeping in Somalia, demining after civil wars in Cambodia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Kibeho massacre in Rwanda, sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, the elections in South Africa which brought Mandela to power, eruptions to the peace process in the Middle East – together with journeys to less familiar places – China, Tibet, Bougainville, and most recently, the effects of the War on Terror in Pakistan, Afghanistan; ‘shock and awe’ in Iraq.
Gittoes is one of Australia’s foremost figurative painters. He has won a number of prestigious awards and is described simultaneously as a figurative painter, a modernist, a postmodernist, a social realist, a pop artist, and an expressionist.
• Webpage: gittoes.com
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Playwright and Screenwriter
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti is an award winning British playwright and screenwriter. She has written extensively for stage, screen and radio in the UK. In December 2004, her play BEHZTI (DISHONOUR) was sensationally closed, after playing to packed houses at the Birmingham Rep. The play which explored sexual abuse in the British Sikh community caused controversy as it was set in a Gurdwara – a Sikh Temple. Members of the local Sikh community objected to the play and demonstrations culminated in a riot which led to theatre bosses closing the show – a move which launched a national debate about artistic censorship and multiculturalism. Death threats forced Gurpreet into hiding.
BEHZTI has subsequently been translated into French and Italian and successfully performed in Belgium, France and Italy. The play won the 2005 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for the best English language play written by a woman. In 2010 her follow up to Behzti – BEHUD was co-produced by Soho Theatre and Coventry Belgrade and shortlisted for the John Whiting Award. BEHUD led to the creation of Beyond Belief – a case study exploring theatre, freedom of expression and public order, produced by Index on Censorship.
• Article: Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti Interview
In 1988, Héla Fattoumi founded with Eric Lamoureux the dance company Urvan Letroiga. Their first duet Husaïs received the award for best first work at the Bagnolet International Choreography Competition in 1990 and the SACD’s new talent award the following year, bringing them international recognition. Since then their works have been presented on France’s most prestigious stages.
From 2001 to 2004, Fattoumi was Dance Vice-President at the SACD (the French performing rights organization). From 2006 to 2008, she chaired the ACCN (Association des Centres Chorégraphiques Nationaux).
Fattoumi was appointed co-director of the Caen National Choreographic Centre (CCNC/BN) in 2004 with Lamoureux. She continued her creative approach with pieces more focused on subjects with a strong societal tone, striving for sharing both a poetic and an aesthetic vision. Her works include La Danse de Pièze (2006), concerning the concept of “homosensuality” in the Arab Muslim world and Manta (2009) exploring the problematic raised by the Islamic veil.
In February 2009, she created with Lamoureux the performance piece Stèles, commissioned by the Louvre Museum, in the context of the museum’s “Nocturnes”. In March 2010, they created Lost in Burqa, a performance for eight performers made from the «clothing-sculptures» of the visual Moroccan artist Majida Khattari.
In 2005, Fattoumi initiated with Lamoureux the Danse d’Ailleurs Festival – Dance from Elsewhere – intended to bring into perspective the concept of universalism by questioning the referent frameworks of modernity in art.
• Webpage: ccncbn.com
Jonatan Stanczak, Co-Founder and Administrative Manager, The Freedom Theatre, Palestine
Jonatan Stanczak is one of the founders of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp. After the theatre’s opening in 2006 he stayed there for three years and came back as the theatre’s general manager shortly after the theatre’s visionary leader, Juliano Mer Khamis was assassinated in April 2011.
Jonatan has been involved in numerous civil right activities such as campaigning for the Palestinian call for boycotts, sanctions and divestments against Israel as well as the development of Swedish-Palestinian cultural collaborations. With a professional background as a nurse Jonatan strongly believes in the potential role of theatre and drama in the health process; development of collective resilience, coping methods and ultimately resistance against all forms of oppression.
• Webpage: thefreedomtheatre.org
Kenan Malik, Writer, Lecturer & Broadcaster
Kenan Malik was born in India, and now lives in the UK. He has a background in Neurobiology (University of Sussex) and History and Philosophy of Science (Imperial College, London). He is a presenter of Analysis, BBC Radio 4’s flag affairs programme as well as a panelist on the Moral Maze.
Kenan Malik has lectured at a number of universities in Britain, Europe, Australia and the USA. His main academic areas of interest are the history of ideas, the history and philosophy of science, the history and philosophy of religion, political philosophy and ethics.
Politically, he describes himself as taking his cue from “James Baldwin’s observation that ‘Freedom is not something that anybody can be given. Freedom is something people take’.” He is a long-time campaigner against imperialism and injustice, and a supporter of equal rights, freedom of expression, and a secular society.
Kenan writes for many newspapers including the Guardian, the Times, the New York Times and the Globe and Mail. He writes regular columns for Bergens Tidende in Norway and Göteborgs-Posten in Sweden. He has written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries including Disunited Kingdom, Are Muslims Hated? (shortlisted for the 2005 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award), Islam, Mullahs and the Media, Skullduggery and Man, Beast and Politics .His books include From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy (2009), which was shortlisted for the Orwell Book prize, Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate (2008), Man, Beast and Zombie (2000), and The Meaning of Race (1996). His next book, on the history of moral thought, will be published in 2013.
Larissa Sansour, Visual Artist
In 2011, Palestinian multimedia artist Larissa Sansour was nominated for the prestigious Lacoste Elysée Prize, administrated by Swiss Musée de l’Elysée. Inspired by Palestine’s unsuccessful request for full membership at the UN, Sansour submitted her Nation Estate project in November 2011. The project depicts a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population. The project’s political charge soon proved too much for the corporate sponsor, French fashion giant Lacoste. In mid-December Sansour was removed from the competition and her nomination revoked. She was asked to approve a statement saying that she had voluntarily withdrawn from her nomination. Sansour refused to approve the statement and instead issued a press release stating the details of her story. The response was a public outcry against censorship, covered in media worldwide. As a result, Musée de l’Elysée decided to cancel the prize entirely and break off all ties with the sponsor, Lacoste.
Larissa Sansour was born in Jerusalem. She studied Fine Art in Copenhagen, London and New York. Her work is interdisciplinary, immersed in the current political dialogue and utilises video art, photography, experimental documentary, the book form and the internet. Her work features in galleries, museums, film festivals and art publications worldwide. Recent solo shows include exhibitions at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, Galerie La B.A.N.K in Paris and DEPO in Istanbul.
• Webpage: larissasansour.com
• Interview: Metropolism.com – Lacoste’s Act of Censorship
• Article: Article by BBC News
• Quotation: Larissa Sansour quote
• Protest in London against Lacoste: youtube.com
Lars Ø. Ramberg, Artist
Since the 1990s, Norwegian artist Lars Ø. Ramberg has been engaged in making critical studies of topics such as national identity, symbolic architecture and language, taking an in-depth look at their role as collective frames of reference. His approach has been to address existing history by manipulating it and questioning the dominant method of documenting it. Although both conceptual and theoretical in nature, these examinations are nonetheless subjective and emotional. Moreover, they are presented to the public in the same context in which they were conceived, drawing the viewer into the discourse. Ramberg’s works consist not only of objects per se, but also of the very processes involved in their creation and the public’s reactions to them, which are often controversial.
The artist’s international breakthrough “Palast des Zweifels”, was a transformation of the abandoned Republic of East Germany into a stronghold of doubt using three-story high neon letters spelling “ZWEIFEL”. The project ultimately had to be approved by the German parliament. Ramberg won the national competition for a Norwegian monument to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Norway’s independence. His sculpture, “Liberté” consisting of three functioning outhouses from Paris in red white and blue, generated so much debate in his country that the national museum finally rejected the assignment. Instead, they ended up as his contribution for the Venice Biennal in 2007.
In 2011, Ramberg presented “Last Dying Speech” in St. Petersburg, accompanied by a reference to the history of Speakers’ Corner in London, where there were 250 soapboxes, each woodcarved with texts about free speech. That added up to one box for each journalist killed after raising a critical voice in the aftermath of Russia’s so-called ‘democracy’. In 2008, President Medvedev himself suggested that Russia should have a Speakers’ Corner, but he never convinced the Duma to allow it.
• Webpage: larsramberg.de
Manny Ansar, Founder and Director of the Festival au Desert
Mohamed Aly Ansar, known as Manny, was born into a Tuareg nomad family on a sand dune 100 kilometers north west of the city of Timbuktu (Mali). Ansar holds a Masters Degree in International Public Policy, and worked within the humanitarian aid field for many years, before he turning towards what had always attracted him; music.
In 2001, ‘Manny’ founded Festival au Desert. The festival occurs annually in January in the region of Timbuktu. It has become one of the premiere cultural events in Mali, showcasing the musical talent, nomadic culture and beauty of the Sahara. ‘Manny’ was also the first manager of internationally renowned Tuareg music group, Tinariwen.
Today, the festival is open to the external world and welcomes artists from other Malian regions, African countries as well as Europe and the rest of the world. During three days, around 30 artistic groups are invited to showcase. The unique experience of playing at the festival is described by musician Robert Plant in Rolling Stone (March 6, 2003):
“It’s one of the few honest things I have been a part of in a long, long time. It’s amazing to play out in the sand. There are no doors, no gates, and no money. It reminded me of why I sang in the first place. It’s not commercialized.”
• Webpage: festival-au-desert.org
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi is a poet, feature film director, independent filmmaker and screenwriter living and working in Burma. He started writing poems in 1991 and one of his poems, De Moe Ga Yay See Del, won Middle Yoma Poetry Award in 2012 in Burma. Due to strong expression against authoritarian rule, many of his poems were banned by the press scrutiny board.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi began his film career in 2003 as scriptwriter and director of the feature film Maung Yar Zar Ne Win (Clone). His breakthrough feature film Beyond the Dream made him well known in Burma. Since then he has accomplished a number of feature and documentary films and is currently working on a documentary of Aung San Suu Kyi. He has extensive experience participating in international film festivals.
In 2012, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi organized The Art of Freedom Film Festival together with Aung San Suu Kyi and Comedian Zarganar. It was the first film festival in Burma that screened films not approved by the strict censor board. More than 180 films made by local filmmakers were submitted to the film festival.
Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi has been nominated for the Freedom of Expression Awards 2012, organized by the Index on Censorship in London.
Maran Turner, Executive Director of Freedom Now, USA
Maran Turner is the Executive Director of Freedom Now. Freedom Now works to secure the release of prisoners of conscience through focused legal, political and public relations advocacy efforts. Freedom Now has represented individuals all over the world, including notables such as currently imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and former prisoner of conscience Lapiro de Mbanga, a singer-songwriter imprisoned in Cameroon for his advocacy in song.
Prior to joining Freedom Now, Maran was a lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she worked with Southern African jurists on human rights litigation. Before moving to South Africa, she was an associate with the international law firm DLA Piper US LLP. While with DLA Piper, Maran developed an international human rights law practice representing notable human rights defenders such as former Czech Republic President Václav Havel and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu. For her efforts, she was honored as Pro Bono Attorney of the Year.
Maran holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Miami.
• Webpage: freedom-now.org
Mustapha Benfodil, Writer and Visual Artist
Mustapha Benfodil was born in 1968 in Relizane, Algeria. He began his career writing poetry, novels and short stories. One of his three published novels, “The Lonely-man gossip”, was awarded the Best Novel of 2003 in Algeria. Benfodil’s theatre pieces are not played in Algeria because of their topics. Therefore he reads his plays and poems himself in the streets of Algiers. During these happenings – that he calls “Wild Readings” – he is often confronted by the cops and arrested.
In 2011, Benfodil was invited to the tenth Biennial of Contemporary Art of Sharjah where he exhibited an installation entitled “Maportaliche / It has no importance – Wild Writings”. The artwork featured a large group of headless mannequins dressed in what seemed to be football uniforms with words printed on them. The installation aimed to represent the voices of rape victims who were assaulted by religious extremists (who used religious texts to justify their crime) during the civil war in Algeria. After what was claimed to be numerous complaints from the public, the Sheikh of Sharjah removed the artwork from the biennial an also fired Jack Persekian, the director of the biennial.
Benfodil lives and works in Algeria and writes for El Watan daily newspaper. He has especially covered the war in Irak and wrote a book on this experience: “The six last days of Bagdad”.
In 2010, Danish artist Nadia Plesner made the painting Darfurnica with the intention of denouncing the way in which the Western media was reporting the genocide occurring in Darfur. The mural, as the name implies, in the style of Guernica, depicted rich and famous people such as Paris Hilton along side victims of genocide. Dangling from one of these victims’ arms was a Louis Vuitton bag. From there a legal battle ensued over the rights of the trademark design by Louis Vuitton. The brand demanded that Nadia pay 5000€ for each day that her work was exhibited in public, claiming that her work represented a “threatening infringement of intellectual property.” The case led Nadia to the Hague, where in June of 2011, after a long and costly legal battle, The European Court of Justice, rejected Vuitton’s augments, annulled the accumulated fine of 485000€ and ordered the brand to pay 15000€ for Nadia’s legal costs.
Nadia Plesner was born in Copenhagen and studied Fine Arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Through various medias like painting, drawing and the internet, she works with the disappearing boundaries between the editorial and advertising departments in the media as a central theme. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums and she frequently works with the artist group Emergency Room.
In 2008 Plesner founded the non profit organization The Nadia Plesner Foundation, through which she uses her art as a platform to raise awareness of humanitarian issues as well as raising money for aid, for example shipments of medical and school equipment to various destinations.
Nikolay Oleynikov is a Moscow-based artist and activist, member of Chto Delat, editor for Chto Delat newspaper, member of the editorial board of Moscow Art Magazine, co-founder of the Learning Film Group, and the May Congress of Creative Workers.
“May Congress” is a small horizontal network of about 20 self-organized cultural initiative groups located in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kyiv and so on, focus on the conditions of the creative and art work field and have recently launched an anti-censorship campaign.
Oleynikov is known for his didactic murals and graphic works in the tradition of the Soviet monumental school, comics, surrealism, and punk culture. Represented worldwide by his solo projects as well as by a number of collective activities, Oleynikov has had numerous international shows and his work has been shown at Färgfabriken, Stockholm; New Museum, New York; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella and the X Baltic Triennale in Vilnius.
Ole Reitov is Programme Manager and one of the founders of Freemuse. His previous work includes 35 years as a broadcaster/cultural journalist and several consultancies on arts and culture in Asia and Africa for UNESCO and SIDA. He served as the first chairperson of the EBU World Music Workshop, a network he co-initiated in order to promote world music in European Public Radio.
Ole has organised several international conferences and contributed to several books and magazines on topics such as African Music, cultural diversity, music censorship and the music industry.
He has work experience from more than 50 countries worldwide and is frequently quoted by international media. He has lectured worldwide and is co-producer of “Listen to the Banned”. His musical taste goes from Indian ragas to contemporary music. He “dreamed up” the idea of a world conference on artistic freedom of expression four years ago.
• Webpage: freemuse.org
Tongai Leslie Makawa, better known by his stage name “Outspoken Alpha Intellect, The Humble Neophyte”, born 1983, is a spoken-word/emcee and community activist from Zimbabwe. One half of the hip-hop group Dialectrik Blue, he is also the front man of his eccentric hip-hop band Outspoken and The Essence.
As an artist and activist he facilitates and conducts spoken-word workshops, as well as arranges and coordinates events through his work as a Project Manager for Magamba Network. The cultural activist network, Magamba, co-founded with fellow artist Comrade Fatso was founded in order to fight social and political injustice through spoken-word events. Besides conducting workshops in schools, he was also a mentor for the British council program Power In The Voice as the hip-hop mentor for Harare.
Outspoken has toured South Africa, The United States of America, Reunion Island, Europe as well as a number of performances in Senegal, Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, through the words and expressions that he shares on stage. Set to be releasing his debut album “Uncool and Overrated: God before Anything” late 2012, he has also taken to videography, as his passion of visual expression grows.
Pang Khee Teik is the most vocal openly gay human rights activists in Malaysia. He is the co-founder of Malaysia’s annual sexuality rights festival Seksualiti Merdeka (Sexuality Independence). Created in 2008 as a platform to empower Malaysians of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, the festival consists of forums, music performances, film screenings, plays, book launches, workshops and talks. In Nov 2011 the festival was banned by the police, but the organisers are filing for a judicial review of the ban.
Pang is equally well known as the former Arts Programme Director for The Annexe Gallery, where he originated many popular events including the affordable art bazaar Art For Grabs. Intersecting arts and activism, Pang’s creative vision allowed many activists and artists to collaborate here to raise consciousness and popularise human rights, and the gallery became known in Kuala Lumpur for its multidisciplinary, alternative and subversive events.
As an artist, Pang is a photographer, performer, writer, editor and graphic designer. In 2009, he co-edited Malaysia’s first queer anthology Body 2 Body: A Malaysian Queer Anthology. As a photographer, he has exhibited in Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Tokyo, Istanbul, Jakarta & Singapore. In 2010, Pang received the Cross Cultural Champion Of The Arts Award at the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards.
Pelin Başaran received her BA in 2002 from the Middle East Technical University (METU) Department of Political Science and Public Administration, and completed her MA at Boğaziçi University, at the Atatürk Institute of Modern Turkish. She previously worked as a manager at the Ottoman Imperial Mint, which functioned as a cultural center. From 2006 –2010 she worked as a member of founding team and international projects manager in Garajistanbul Contemporary Performing Arts Space. She also worked as trainer and researcher at the Local Cultural Policy Program at Istanbul Bilgi University, ECF and Boekmanstichting and contributed to the “Turkish Cultural Policy Report – A Civil Perspective” published in July 2011.
As founder and director of PARC, Başaran is currently working as project coordinator of “Black Ribbon-Freedom of Expression in the Arts”. PARC has become the leading organization to promote freedom of expression in the arts and it is the first of its kind in Turkey.
Başaran has been selected by British Council,to research in the UK about young artists’ development and freedom of expression for the cultural leadership program.
Petr Lom, Filmmaker
Petr Lom was born in Prague in 1968, and grew up inCanada. A former academic with a PhD in political philosophy from Harvard, he gave up his university career in 2003 to become a fulltime documentary filmmaker specializing in human rights subjects. According to himself, this was the best decision he ever made. His award-winning films have been broadcast in over thirty countries and screened at the most prestigious international film festivals (Sundance, Berlinale, Rotterdam).
Filmography: Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan (2004); On a Tightrope (2007), a film about the persecution of the Uighur minority in China; Letters to the President (2009), an exclusive access film about the regime of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad; and Back to the Square (2012), a film about injustice in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.
Rachida Triki, Film Director and Researcher
Rachida Triki is a full professor of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art at Tunis University, writer/curator based in Tunisia, president of Tunisian Aesthetic Association ATEP founding member of the Mediterranean Aesthetics Society (Athens since 2002). She was vice president of the International Cultural Festival of Sfax (Tunisia 1994-1996) and a member of the Scientific Committee of Arts festival of Mahares (Tunisia 1998 – 2002). She has organised contemporary arts exhibitions (in Tunisia,) and has directed twenty-five documentary films on Tunisian painters. She was the curator for North Africa in Dak’art 2010 and has published texts on the work of many North African artists.
Robert Sember, Artist and Researcher
Robert Sember, born and raised in Durban, South Africa, is a visual and performance artist, researcher and a member of the international sound-art collective, Ultra-red. For eighteen years, Ultra-red has investigated the contribution experimental sound art can make to political organizing within the communities where the eleven members are situated. Their work includes concerns related to (im)migrants’ rights, housing access, sexual and gender rights, and anti-racism and anti-poverty struggles.
Sember holds a M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University and has taught ethnographic research and cultural studies in graduate and undergraduate programs in the United States, the Netherlands and South Africa, as well as at the Department of World Arts and Cultures at the University of California in Los Angeles and the Center for HIV/AIDS Networking at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. His ethnographic research in the U.S. and South Africa includes the focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, governmental and non-governmental substance abuse, cultural competence strategies. Furthermore he has contributed to dozens of publications.
Sember is the co-founder of the Arbert Santana Ballroom Archive and Oral History Project, an initiative by and for members of the African-American and Latino/a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in New York City. His art and performance projects have taken place in numerous venues and locations such as; Netherlands, Poland, New York, London, Durban and Oslo.
Sherine Amr, Singer
Sherine Amr started singing Arabic pop songs at the age of six. She wrote her first song that caused her problems at school when she was 16 years old. It was criticizing the school’s system, policies and atmosphere. At the age of 18, she started to get into metal music – she fell in love with the guitar so she started playing it and composing more songs. In 2005, Sherine formed her first band ever under the name MASCARA “Massive Scar Era”.
MASCARA was the first all girls metal-rock band in Egypt. She started taking things more professionally with her band, and at the age of 19, she was selected to attend the Independent Music Workshop held by Hihat Music Studio in Alexandria. She started attending musical workshops held by the Grammy Award winner Fathy Salama. In 2009, Sherine was selected from over 100 participants from all over the world to attend The Cultural Management Workshop held in Syria by El Mawred for cultural resources. After that she started to tour with her band all over Europe and the USA and became the first metal band from Egypt that toured around the world representing not only the Egyptian modern culture but also a young female point of view.
Si Han, Curator
Si Han has a PhD in Art History and Visual Studies. He is currently holding a position as a curator of the Chinese collections at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm. He is also a guest professor at China Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing.
Si Han was born in 1972 and grew up in Shandong province in China. In 1996 he moved to Sweden where he studied Art History. In his research he has focused on Chinese image theories and practices, East and West contact history, architecture in China during the 20th century and Chinese ceramics.
With experiences such as underground film production in Beijing in the 1990’s and as a curator for the Secret Love exhibition, Si Han’s relation to censorship is mainly related to visual imagery. Secret Love will be opening in the fall 2012 and is the first ever major exhibition of Chinese contemporary art on the subject of taboo love.
Sigrun Slapgard, Writer, Foreign Correspondent and Board Member of Fritt Ord
Sigrun Slapgard is an award winning Norwegian writer, international reporter and documentary director. She has written several books including the biography Dikterdronningen about Sigrid Undset (Gyldendal, 2007), which has been translated into several languages. Slapgard has also written books about her experience as a war reporter and from her years living in Latin-America, Africa and the Middle-East.
In 2002 her biography about the famous war correspondent Lise Lindbæk, Krigens penn, was awarded the Melsom prize. Slapgard has worked as an anchor and made several TV-documentaries for the Norwegian Broadcasting Company. Her last book was an historical novel from the World War II. Presently she is working on a new book from Latin-America.
• Webpage: sigrunslapgard.com
Sondos Shabayek, Writer, Theatre Director and Actress
As a writer, Sondos Shabayek is focusing on exploring, exposing and discussing social taboos in the Egyptian society. In 2011 she set up the theatre play “Tahrir Monologues” – an event that recreated the 18 days on the Tahrir square, beginning with Facebook activities and ending when Mubarak stepped down. The play consisted of real-life stories and brought out both tears and laughter in the audience.
Since 2007, Shabayek has been one of the forces behind the “Bussy Project”, featuring actors telling the real stories of the women in Egypt. The project started at the American University in Cairo in 2006 and in 2010 the group decided to perform outside the university. This brought the “Bussy Project” face-to-face with government censorship. In 2012, Shabayek performed a monologue in the show called “Don’t Tell Your Story”, a project consisting of deleted scenes from previous “Bussy Project” performances.
Shabayek has studied mass communication and broadcasting. She started out copy editing for a televised youth show and then moved on to work as a writer and editor for the Arabic youth magazine “E7na” (meaning “Us”).
Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programmes, National Coalition Against Censorship
Svetlana Mintcheva is Director of Programmes at the National Coalition Against Censorship, a 38-year old alliance of U.S. national non-profit organizations united around the mission to promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms. She is the founding director of NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Programme, the only U.S. national initiative devoted to the arts and free expression today.
Svetlana has written on emerging trends in censorship, organized public discussions and mobilized support for individual artists. She is the co-editor of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (New Press, 2006), curator of Filth, Treason, Blasphemy?: Museums and Censorship (McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum) and author of Exposing the Censor Within, an interactive public art installation.
An academic as well as an activist, Mintcheva has taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and at Duke University, Durham, NC, from which she received her PhD in critical theory in 1999. She is currently adjunct professor at the Steinhardt School of Media and Communications at NYU. Her academic research focuses on postmodern fiction as well as on ethics, censorship and the notion of “offense”.
• Webpage: ncac.org
Tania Bruguera, Visual Artist, Initiator and Director of Immigrant Movement International
Tania Bruguera is one of the leading political and performance artists of her generation. Her work researches ways in which Art can be applied to the everyday political life; creating a public forum to debate ideas shown in their state of contradictions and focusing on the transformation of the condition of “viewer” onto one of “citizenry”. Bruguera uses the terms ARTE DE CONDUCTA (conduct / behavior art) and ARTE ÚTIL (Useful Art) to define her practice. Bruguera works on appropriating the resources of power to create power; to create through Art political situations.
A participant in Documenta, Performa, Venice, Gwangju and Havana Biennales and at exhibitions at mayor museums in Europe and United States. Her work is part of the collection of the Tate Modern; Museum für Moderne Kunst; Daros Foundation; Museo del Barrio; Bronx Museum; IVAM; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam; Musèe National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou. In 1998 she was selected as a Guggenheim fellow and in 2008 she received the Prince Claus Award (The Netherlands).
Bruguera is the Founder and Director of Arte de Conducta; the first politic art studies program of its kind; this project has inspired a series of new art schools founded by artists in Latin America to which she has served as advisor.
Tenzin Gönpo, Musician, Singer and Dancer
Tenzin Gönpo was born in Lhodrak in south central Tibet, but was forced into exile in India. At the age of 12, he entered the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (T.I.P.A) in northern India. The institute was founded in 1959 by the Dalai Lama to protect and develop Tibetan art. Here Gönpo learnt to preserve the essence of his culture through the songs, music and dance of his ancestors.
Gönpo has worked inside the T.I.P.A. as a professional artist. He plays several instruments and has studied and taught traditional dances and songs for over twenty years. In 1991 he moved his activities to France where he lives and works as a musician, singer, dancer and actor.
Tenzing Rigdol, Visual Artist
Tenzing Rigdol is a Tibetan contemporary artist whose artwork ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, digital art, to video installation, site-specific and performance art. He has extensively exhibited his artworks throughout the United States in various museums, and also in London, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Israel, Madrid and Mumbai. Rigdol’s artwork is held in museums and collections, and he also writes poetry. His poetry books titled “R”—the Frozen Ink (2008), Anatomy of Nights (2011), Butterfly’s Wings (2011) were published by Tibet Writes. He lives in New York.
Rigdol was trained in Tibetan Traditional Thangkha painting and continued his studies with a BA in Art History, and a BFA in Painting and Drawing from The University of Colorado at Denver. His art installation and exhibition ‘Our Land Our People’ (2011) was a site-specific installation which featured 20 tons of soil from Tibet, which was secretly smuggled into Dharamsala, India in order to transform a basketball court into a place where exiled Tibetans could walk over the soil of their homeland. The installation put international focus of the Chinese-controlled Tibet, and provided exiles and Indian-born Tibetans to physically connect with the soil of ancestors.
Terakaft is a desert blues band from Mali founded in 2001 by Sanou Ag Ahmed. Music is now banned in the Ifogha region of Northern Mali and Terakaft, like other bands from the region, has had to settle in an area of the Sahara far from home.
Terakaft is made up of Liya Ag Ablil (guitar, vocals), Sanou Ag Ahmed (guitars, vocals), Abdallah Ag Ahmed (bass, guitars, vocals), and Ahmed Ibrahim aka Pino (percussions, vocals). They released their latest album, Kel Tamasheq, in August 2012.
• Home page: Terakaft on Facebook
William Nygaard was chief publisher and managing director of the publishing house H. Aschehoug & Co. from 1974 to 2010, chairing the Norwegian Publishers’ Association from 1987 to 1990. Mr Nygaard was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Tromsø in 1998.
In October 1993, William Nygaard was shot and seriously injured outside his home in Oslo. It is assumed that the assassination attempt was related to the fact that Aschehoug published the Norwegian version of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses in 1989. Earlier that same year, the then Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini had issued a fatwa against Rushdie and anyone who helped disseminate his book, which the Iranian clergy considered to be blasphemous. The police investigation into the shooting was unsuccessful, and no perpetrator was ever arrested. In the years since, Mr Nygaard has continued to champion Rushdie and freedom of expression. In 1994, he was awarded the Fritt Ord’s Prize (Fritt Ords Pris) for his valiant efforts to protect and promote freedom of expression.
William Nygaard is currently chair of the Board of Directors of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and Visions Theatre. Through his position on the board of Norwegian PEN and his involvement in the International Publishers’ Association (IPA), he continues to defend freedom of expression and human rights. Mr Nygaard is especially interested in matters involving Belarus, Turkey and Afghanistan.
Win Maw, Musician and Composer
Win Maw, born in 1962 is a Burmese musician and VJ with a background in mathematics who picked up the guitar while attending Regional College in Yangon. In 1981 he formed the band Computer Control. The band was later banned by the only broadcast at the time – Myanmar/Burma government TV. The band changed its name to “Shwe Thanzin” (Golden Melody) and while playing at university events, Win Maw became involved in the “88 Generation Students”. Together with Aung San Suu Kyi, he and other students demonstrated all over the nation. These demonstrations ended with bloody crackdowns by the military which took over power in September 1988.
Win Maw kept playing the guitar in Shwe Thanzin until he was arrested by Military Intelligence in 1996. He was centenced to 7 years in prison for writing Burmese lyrics to Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to heaven” (“Soul of Fighting Peacock” in Burmese) and Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall” (“88 Revolution and Sacrifice” in Burmese). He was released in 2002.
In 2006, Win Maw started to work for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) as an underground Video Journalist (VJ). he also composed and played freedom songs for DVB. Win Maw and other VJs played a crucial role in filming the Saffron Revolution, an uprising led by Buddhist monks in September 2007. This footage reached the news all over the world and featured in the award-winning, Oscar nominated documentary “Burma VJ”. As a result, Win Maw was sentenced to 17 years in prison. During his imprisonment, he continued to fight for freedom of expression. While in prison, Win Maw composed songs urging activists to ‘act’ instead of just ‘speak’. These songs were smuggled out of prison and published on the Freemuse website.
Win Maw was released from prison on 13 January 2012, along with hundreds of political prisoners. He is still working for DVB, and keeps making music under the banned band name Shwe Thanzin. In 2010 he was awarded the Kenji Nagai Memorial Award for his commitment as a freelance journalist in Burma.
Yngve André Søberg has been a soloist with the Norwegian National Opera since 2010. He studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music and the Royal Danish Opera Academy in Copenhagen. In 2003 he made his debut as Quince in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night‘s Dream with the Copenhagen Opera.
Søberg is a much sought after concert singer and has made guest appearances with the leading Scandinavian orchestras. His concert repertoire includes works such as Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Händel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, Fauré’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 and Bach’s Matthew Passion. He has won a number of prizes and awards, Including the Ruud Wallenberg stipend several times. He was also one of the finalists in the prestigious Belvedere Competition in 2007.
• Den Norske Opera & Ballet: Yngve André Søberg
Zanele Muholi, Visual Artist
Zanele Muholi is a visual activist born in Umlazi, Durban and currently lives in Cape Town. Prior to her photographic journeys into black female sexualities and genders in Africa, she worked as a human/lesbian rights activist with members in her community, raising the many issues facing black lesbian women living in South Africa today. She worked as a reporter and photographer for Behind the Mask as well as researched and documented cases of hate crimes over a three year period, in order to to bring the realities of ‘curative rape’, assault, HIV and brutal murders of black lesbians to public attention. In 2002, she co-founded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian organization based in Gauteng, dedicated to providing a safe space for women loving women to meet and organize.
Muholi completed an Advanced Photography course at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown in 2003, and held her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in 2004. Since then, she has completed a MFA in Documentary Media, exhibited at numerous galleries and museums such as São Paulo Biennial, Brazil and at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
She has gained several awards for her documentary Difficult Love (2010) which was screened at festivals in Canada, Sweden, France, Russia, Italy and more. Furthermore, three books have been published on her work and Muholi won several awards for her photography such as the Casa Africa award for best female photographer living in Africa.
• Home page: zanelemuholi.com
• Exhibition: Mo(u)rning
• Article: Black Looks – ‘Campaign to replace Zanele Muholi’s stolen photography equipment’
• Article: Los Angeles Times – ‘South African photographer believes theft was hate crime’
• Article: Black Looks – ‘A Dangerous Visibility – In memory of Thapelo Makhutle’
Zarganar, Comedian, Actor and Film Director
Maung Thura “Zarganar” is a popular Burmese comedian, film actor and a film director as well as a fierce critic of the Burmese military government. He started performing amateur stage comedy shows at Yangon’s universities while still in college. After completing dentistry studies, he took to the stage full time. He quickly became a household name when his troupe began appearing on Burmese television, especially known for his ability to concoct double entendres. He used them in farcical routines highlighting the failures of the government delighted millions of awe-struck audiences.
Everything changed in 1988 when Zarganar was arrested for participating in the nationwide uprising. He would spend the next five out of six years in and out of prison. After his release from prison in 1994, he was prohibited from performing on stage but allowed to participate in video productions, working as producer, director, scriptwriter and actor. However, his work was closely scrutinized by the censors and military intelligence, in a cat-and-mouse game in which Zarganar and his audiences took delight in sidestepping the authorities.
In September 2006, Zarganar was banned indefinitely from performing publicly or participating in any kind of entertainment related work. He was arrested on 4 June 2008 for speaking to foreign media about the situation of millions of people left homeless after a cyclone devastated the Irrawaddy delta. In November 2008, he was sentenced to 59 years in prison, convicted of “public order offences”, much more than the anticipated maximum of two years. Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate release. He was freed on 11 October 2011 in a mass amnesty of political prisoners.
Zarganar was awarded One Humanity Award by PEN Canada (of which he is an honorary member) as well as the Freedom to Create Prize for Imprisoned Artists. He was also awarded Honorary Life Membership in Equity, the UK performers’ union, in recognition of his struggle for artistic freedom in Burma.
Robin Denselow, Conference rapporteur
Robin Denselow is a broadcaster, producer and journalist. He has worked extensively for BBC Newsnight, and for BBC radio, specialising in international affairs and African politics. He is also the world music and folk music correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, and the author of When The Music’s Over, a history of political pop.