With sobering events in world news, Amnesty International is turning to artists to help address human rights violations across the globe. Recently, the organization's creative arm, Art for Amnesty, hosted a weeklong series of events in Los Angeles designed to foster and promote arts activism. The highlight was Art for Rights, events which featured 12 murals by different artists inspired by a dozen cases spotlighted in this year's Write for Rights letter-writing campaign, the largest in the world. The public had the chance to listen in on panel discussions with participating artists as well as Amnesty International executives, all while learning more about contemporary cases of human-rights violations and taking steps to help stop them.
Art for Rights guests included the daughter of Ilham Tohti, Jewher Ilham, who posed in front of Sophia Dawson’s portrait of her father. Ilham Tohti is imprisoned in China serving a life sentence for criticizing the country's treatment of the Uighurs, one of 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in the most populous country in the world. Currently residing in the US, Jewher is relentlessly fighting for her father’s release and appeared particularly moved by Dawson's portrait of her dad.
Likewise, Kathy Peltier posed in front of a portrait of her own father, Leonard Peltier, by artist Douglas Miles. Mr. Peltier is a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who is serving life in prison for killing two FBI agents over the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation conflict in 1975. Amnesty International officially called his trial unfair in its 2010 annual report.
Other artworks included Ricky Lee Gordon's portrait of Edward Snowden, as well as Brandan “Bmike” Odums' portrait of Fomusoh Ivo Feh, who is facing 20 years in prison in Cameroon for texting a joke. Among other artworks on display were JC Ro's painting of tortured Azerbaijani student activists Bayram and Giyas; Alexander John's portrait of jailed Indonesian flag-waving teacher Johan Teterissa; and BK The Artist's artwork of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, a.k.a., Shawkan, a photojournalist at risk of the death penalty in Egypt.
Marvin Bing, Jr., the Creative Director for Art for Amnesty, explains the history and mission of the organization. "Art For Amnesty isn't new," he tells The Creators Project. "It's just been relaunched with a renewed focus on current culture, creativity, and working with creative mediums that have the attention of the emerging majority. Art for Amnesty has always been the creative engine that connected music, the arts, filmmakers, actors, actresses, entertainment institutions to the Human Rights work and movement that is Amnesty International."