Now I personally know Obama's image-makers and scandalous Swedish lesbian artist!
"Mänskliga Rättigheter Dagarna" - sounds strange?
Nothing strange at all! This means "Human Rights Days", the biggest Human rights venue in Scandinavia, which was held in Umeå 15-16 Nov...
Umeå, a small cosy town in the northern Sweden, one of two European Capitals of Culture 2014.
Obviously, there were not any other such a perfect place for an event devoted to culture and human rights at the same time!
Being a human rights lawyer and creative person in my home country, Ukraine, I tried to combine these two things in all my projects; and such activities always had a wide public response and used to be the “top news” in the media.
I remember the first day, 13th Nov, Thursday… Absolutely coincidentally, I visited the morning mini-seminar “Active Yourself” leading by a couple, let’s say, Obama’s image-makers (!), Kitty Kurth and Kevin Lampe. It is difficult even to imagine how inspiring it was for me! They recommended the “must have” book by Saul D. Alinsky called “ Rules for radicals”. I think, you will also appreciate this masterpiece.
After that, I came to the seminar “Human rights behind bars” with human rights defenders from Russia (Pavel Chikov) and Belarus (Pavel Sapelka). Firstly, I should notice that I am lucky to know Russian, that’s why I felt quite confident to attend the seminar with translation from Russian into Swedish :) Secondly, it was definitely delightful, but sad at the same time, to hear about my field of interest and work – human rights conditions in the places of detention in these countries. Thirdly, comparing their experience with the same in my country, which also supposed to be one of the former Soviet Union republic, I figured out that our National Preventive Mechanism is much better and more progressive than in Russia and Belarus. And I really regret on such a low level of compliance of human rights in these countries.
The afternoon session was also quite interesting for me. “Courage to act”, with human rights anti-mining activist from South Africa Nonhle Mbuthuma, and cultural worker, the film director from Cameroon Jean-Pierre Bekolo, opened my eyes wider on backgrounds of uprising’s “sparks” in their home countries…
Really fascinating seminar “Count me in!” finalized the first day of the Forum. Why I liked it so much? Because, actually, we have the same ideas with the presenter, Andre de Quadros :) The contribution of the arts to a range of social change projects! I was also impressed by the fact that every seminar in that conference hall was accompanied by a sign language interpreter!
Evening was also full of emotions and new friends since we were warmly and hospitably taken by the Umeå NFGL community at Umeå University! I even unexpectedly met my old Ukrainian friend there!
Next, Friday’s, morning I also started with Kitty Kurth and Kevin Lampe :) They taught the audience how to “Define your message” to society. I have already used this knowledge working on my project within the NFGL in Lund.
“Culture as Catalyst for Human Rights” with the panellists from Belarus, Anna Artimovtj, Valentina Kiselyova, Gleb Labadzenka and Alesia Litvinouskaja, was my next venue that day. Belarus supposed to be the only dictatorship country in Europe. Of course, the participants couldn’t say a word about that, but even if they didn’t say directly, it was obvious from their presentations, that Belarus is suffering from infinite restrictions on the right to expression, right to speech and even right to language! Belorussians speak Russian and a lot of people are quite poor in native, Belarussian, language. Street graffiti art is absolutely forbidden, as well as any pictures, literature etc. concerning any anti-President issues…
But cultural practitioners are excluded from the human rights scene not only in Belarus… Why is the right to culture not seen as a natural part of the human rights system? It was a question of the “Cultural Rights are Human rights” seminar which was held with participants from such organisations as Artwatch Africa, the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, the Swedish Grants Committee, National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms in Cameroon and TYP Kulturkapital. Especially, I would point out a very scandalous Swedish artist, one of the panelists, Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, a lesbian, who were persecuted for her exhibition "Ecce Homo".
And furthermore... After the mini-seminar "Cultural diversity. A new form of racism?", arranged by the Open Society Initiative for Europe, I now have a lot of useful books for my studies! ;)
The second day of the Forum ended with the seminar organized by the Si and called “Empowering Minorities: International voices on political participation”. I was very proud that two out of four panelists are my friends – Olga Mashtaler, who was talking about the situation in Ukraine; and Azaliah Mapombere, who was a representative of my native programme at Lund University, and was talking about the problems of Basarwa minorities in Botswana in the light of the diamond-mining… Two other participants, Dr Bahar Baser from Turkey and Inger-Ann Omma from Sweden, shared their views on the Kurdish and Sapmi issues respectively.
Mingling afterwards with the Si scholars was the perfect continuation of the day’s discussions.
On Saturday, 15 Nov, the last day of the Forum, we watched the film “The President” by Jean-Pierre Bekolo, who, unfortunately, got to the hospital that day… The film’s devoted to the corruption in Cameroon.
I much appreciated the support to Ukraine, shown by the Russian activists Lucine Dzhanian (Pussy Riot Collective), Aleksei Knedlyakovskij (Russian artist) and Victoria Ivleva (Russian photographer and journalist), during the seminar “Democracy and Freedom of Speech in Russia” (or, let’s say better “the LACK of democracy and NO freedom of speech in Russia”).
Being the writer and poetess, I also was delighted by the last seminar, which I attended in the Forum, called “Healing Words – Storytelling in a Place of Conflict”. A lot of questions to Roi Gal-Or, who was so kind and outstanding! Now I am sure that I am on my right way in life!
What could be more worthy to come?..