Archive for the ‘editorial’ Category

Detroit: A tribute to multi-faceted artist, David Blair

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

On July 23, 2011, Detroit lost an award-winning, multi-faceted artist: singer-songwriter, poet, writer, performer, musician, community activist and teacher David Blair. While Blair performed all over the world and has friends on almost every continent, Detroit was his home. As Metro Times writer Travis Wright wrote, “ He loved this city and that love was reciprocated. They had claimed each other more than a decade ago. “

The Detroit community recognizes how much he created in its name, and will honor his legacy with the First Annual Blair’s Crowded House, an homage to the Crowded House show Blair created and hosted yearly in an effort to expose the Detroit community to a variety of its homegrown artists. “Crowded House originated from Blair’s incredible ability to bring artists from many different backgrounds together in the interests of building community and advancing social justice,” said Invincible, a Detroit hip-hop artist, activist, and the event’s co-organizer. “Our goal is to organize this event every year around Blair’s birthday.”  Blair’s Crowded House will include such acts as The Boyfriends, Alison Lewis, Monica Blaire, Jamaal Versiz May, Airea Dee Matthews, Khary Kimani Turner, Mike E, and Invincible. A gallery view of video footage and photography of his performances and travels, and a writing workshop to give those who were inspired by him the space to create their own tributes will also commence. All proceeds from the event will go toward the David Blair Memorial, a fund created to assist Detroit artists with their needs in times of crisis. Learn more about the event here.

The Creative Resistance Fund has given its advice and solidarity for the creation of the David Blair Memorial Fund.

Freedom to Create Prize 2011 – Only One Month Left to Enter!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Launched in 2007, the Freedom to Create Prize is a celebration of the courage and creativity of artists, and the positive influence of their work to promote social justice and inspire the human spirit. The Prize is open to all forms of art, in any creative field and any individual or group of any gender, religion or nationality.  In 2011, a total prize fund of US$100,000 will be awarded to the winning artists and their nominated advocacy organisations to further the cause their artwork has highlighted.  The Prize has two categories: the Main Prize, open to individuals or artistic groups in all creative fields over the age of 16 and the Imprisoned Artist Prize, focusing on artists who are currently imprisoned for their artwork. The 2011 Freedom to Create Prize is now open for entries via our website until 30 July 2011 (deadline extended). Please see here for further information on how to enter the prize.


Precarity & Intersectionality

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

A few weeks ago the freeDimensional site carried a post entitled February 18 Elections in Uganda // Honoring slain school teacher & LGBT activist David Kato. The very next post was about the death of a 24 year old artist, Victor Leiva, killed in Guatemala City. From the viewpoint of freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund, there was a common condition that allowed both of these heinous acts to happen … a lack of support and protection!  Many times, I am asked to provide a formula for how or why an artist gets into life-risking danger.  Of course there are stylistic forms of censorship and suppression that are different from one region to another and when levied across diverse demographics, but I suppose there is a sort of countdown or sequence of events that is discernible:  When the rule of law erodes (or has never formed) and the protective layers of civil society are stripped away due to contested elections, civil war, cross-border conflict, etc; when we know that journalists are fearful to give literal accounts of the impunity faced by their communities, then we also know that artists who bear witness to the societal condition will face danger.  The outcome is the same for a artist in Guatemala and an LGBT activist in Uganda.  Conversely, I would argue that to improve conditions for culture workers in areas of unrest would make it safer for grassroots activists (and vice versa).  It’s also important to consider how sexual orientation can be used as grounds to economically marginalize a person regardless of whether his/her work is related through personal activism. For example  I recently asked a grantee of the Creative Resistance Fund if sexual orientation had anything to do with the eminent danger faced.  The answer was yes, but with the caveat that there is no way to know for sure until it is too late.  Unfortunately, I have heard this on several occasions.  When I think about all these overlapping vulnerable groups – grassroots activists, LGBT community, artists in conflict (or unsafe) areas – the concepts of precarity and intersectionality come to mind.  According to Wikipedia, precarity means “existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.” And, “intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.”

The image used for this post is by Velimir Zernovski, one of the few artists to directly explore notions of identity and popular culture as well as sexuality and gender identity in Macedonia. Zernovski states that  “Artists are not here, especially now, to produce beautiful paintings to hang in your living room; our obligation is far more complicated.”  freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund have invited Velimir to talk about the issues laid out above while he is in New York for Alice, what else is out there? an exhibit at Gallery MC from 7-21 April. Stay tuned for more information on that talk or contact me at


How a Prize Helps

Monday, December 20th, 2010

This past weekend, freeDimensional was represented at the Prince Claus Fund for Culture & Development’s annual award ceremony.  The ceremony is a great time to meet and network with others working in the fields of culture, free expression and human rights.  At the same time, an award ceremony like the Prince Claus Fund’s or the Freedom to Create Awards recently given at the Citadel in Cairo, Egypt are lavish events that cost  a lot of money to stage.  This begs the question of how does the award, its ceremony and the resulting media help the artist who is doing frontline activism, the culture worker in distress.  freeDimensional and the Creative Resistance Fund operate under the assumption that having the international limelight (even for a brief period) can provide a critical awareness (i) to the public about that individual’s situation and conditions in her/his community and (ii) to an oppressive regime that it is not acceptable to harass, threaten or censor the artist and that people, organizations and governments on the outside are watching.  In keeping with this belief, we regularly use staff time, capacity and connections to nominate our stakeholders to various awards.  For example, we nominated Uzbek photographer Umida Ahkmedova and Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani to the Freedom to Create Award.  Whereas they did not win the award, another fD stakeholder, Owen Maseko (pictured here) was the third place winner, an accolade that came with a $10,000 prize.  Similarly, we nominated Taslima Nasreen, Athol Fugard and Naseer Shamma’s Oud School in Cairo to this year’s Prince Claus Fund Award.