Artists at Risk Connection Releases New Podcast, ‘Creating Artistic Resilience: Voices of Asia’
A limited series podcast from Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), Mekong Cultural Hub (MCH), and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) presents interviews with artist-activists on their experiences of artistic freedom in Asia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — As political unrest and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continue to threaten artistic freedom across South, Southeast and East Asia, artist-activists find themselves increasingly vulnerable to censorship and persecution in their countries. The humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in Afghanistan has also sent thousands seeking aid in countries across the world including Indonesia and India. These political upheavals across the region have led to the urgent need for solidarity and safe spaces where artists can share their stories and advocate on behalf of the social justice movements in their communities and countries.
In a limited-run podcast released today called Creating Artistic Resilience: Voices of Asia from PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection—produced in partnership with the Mekong Cultural Hub (MCH) and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)—five artists and cultural rights defenders from Myanmar, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh share their experiences of artistic freedom, activism and their stories of resilience in the face of resistance.
Prompted by the findings from a closed virtual workshop convened in December 2020 as well as those captured in the ARC publication Arresting Art, the podcast comprises conversations between ARC Asia Regional Representative Manojna Yeluri and cultural rights defenders such as a Myanmar visual artist, Hong Kong’s Kacey Wong, Philippines artist rights collective DAKILA, Malaysia’s Fahmi Reza, and Bangladeshi artist Sofia Karim.
“With the current socio-political climate in Asia being as volatile as it is, it is no wonder that artists and artistic freedom is in a vulnerable position,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Yet despite the rigorous circumstances that they find themselves in, the artistic community is incredibly resilient—and it is this sense of resilience and resistance that is captured in Creating Artistic Resilience. Shared in the spirit of solidarity, each of these conversations with artists and cultural rights defenders in the region provide a valuable glimpse into the personal and collective challenges currently faced by the creative community in Asia, as they advocate on behalf of the social justice issues in their respective countries. We hope that Creating Artistic Resilience provides insights and tools to the artistic community at large, while also serving as a powerful reminder that artists at risk are not alone.”
Owing to the changes in their countries’ legal and political frameworks, artists and creative professionals with a history of lending their work to social justice movements are finding themselves targeted by governments and other groups. Forced to endure increasingly unsafe conditions, artists from Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Bangladesh are having to resort to relocation—efforts of which are hindered due to financial constraints and mobility restrictions imposed in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The sharing of experiences—of the challenges and experiences cultural rights defenders and artists face—can be understood as a strategy of protection. The more defenders are connected to one another in resistance, the more possibilities there are for collective support and action to be taken against the threats and harassment prevalent in the region.” said FORUM-ASIA Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.
In the course of five episodes, Creating Artistic Resilience examines the state of artistic freedom across Southeast, East and South Asia.
- In Episode 1: The Spring Revolution – Myanmar from an artist’s perspective, a Myanmar based multimedia artist speaking under the pseudonym Spring shares her perspective on the need for revolution and how the creative community is playing an important role.
- In Episode 2: Hong Kong’s Cultural Fireman – Kacey Wong on art as resistance, award winning artist and activist Kacey Wong walks us through the evolution of social justice movements in Hong Kong and his thoughts on the current impact instruments such as the National Security Law are having on artistic freedom and the people’s ability to freely express themselves.
- In Episode 3: Visual Disobedience – Fahmi Reza on political art and censorship in Malaysia, Fahmi Reza, political activist and graphic artist shares his stories of resilience in the face of continuing threats from local authorities and his pragmatic approach to graphic dissent and being an impactful citizen and artist-activist in Malaysia.
- In Episode 4: Bridging art and activism – Philippine based collective DAKILA, Leni Velasco and Andrei Venal of DAKILA and the Active Vista Centre, share their insights on censorship, red-tagging and digital activism in the Philippines, as well as their thoughts on art-based human rights interventions in the socio-political narrative of their country and what civil society can do to help catalyse change.
- And finally in Episode 5: Diaspora activism – Sofia Karim on artists and human rights defenders in Bangladesh and India, Sofia Karim, a UK-abased Bangladeshi artist and activist and the creator of the highly acclaimed Turbine Bagh art movement, shares her thoughts on shared solidarities and what the international community can do to support and catalyze change in Bangladesh and India.
“Diaspora solidarity is essential and frankly, there’s just not enough of it.” Sofia Karim told ARC’s Yeluri. “What’s happening in India and Bangladesh is absolutely terrifying. We’re now at a precipice. If this is where we are now, and the trajectory continues, then the consequences are imponderable.”
All five episodes are available for download and streaming on all major podcast platforms.