On April 1st members of ACAR had the chance to talk online with artists from Thailand and Myanmar about the alarming situation for the arts and the freedom of expression in both countries. The situation in Myanmar under military dictatorship, with disappearance of artists and the dissolution of public cultural live goes along with rising of protests in Thailand and massive attacks against artists, namely theatre artists with rising number of victims – arrested or killed. Thai theatre artists have started a call for solidarity with theatre artists in Myanmar, passed to the Myanmar embassy.
ACAR will follow the situation and has offered support via the ITI network and other connected initiatives.
Yvette Hardie, outgoing president of ASSITEJ and Director of ASSITEJ South Africa has addressed a letter to the international theatre community and the ITI. She describes that in South Africa with the COVID19 pandemic “Artists and creative practitioners are suffering after more than a year without proper support from the national Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, and with severe mismanagement of the relief “. Several contracts for beneficiaries for a grant, set up finally in November last year, have been cut without justification, delayed or have not been paid until now. Sibongile Mngoma a world-renowned opera singer, is leading a group of representatives of enraged South African artists and creative practitioners who have occupied National Arts Council offices in Johannesburg on 3 March 2021 and have remained there for over a month, calling for transparency and accountability. The occupiers received a wave of solidarity from the whole creative sector and are now in urgent danger to be physically attacked and removed from the place.
ITI Director General Tobias Biancone has published a Call for an Enabling Environment for the Arts & Culture Sector in South Africa, addressed to the Government of South Africa, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and The National Arts Council: “The International Theatre Institute ITI is deeply concerned about the current situation in South Africa. It firmly stands in solidarity with South African Artists and creative practitioners who are demanding accountability and transparency regarding relief funding for the arts…South Africa is extremely rich in cultural diversity. Cultural practitioners and artists from all over the world highly esteem the creative output of your country. Covid-19 and its aftermath in the culture sector should not destroy what has been built up for many decades.”
Please, post your support statement and use these hashtags: #Im4theArts #ArtistsLivesMatter #CreativeSurvivorSA, and for Twitter: @nacsouthafrica, @SportsArtsCultur @PresidencyZA .
The newly formed FREESZFE association announces that European universities will form partnerships to save the degrees of about 150 SZFE students. The Theater and Film University in Budapest (SZFE) has been occupied by its student last year to protest against the loss of independence and academic freedom (see ACAR post). The diploma rescue program “Emergency Exit ” will be supported by the University Mozarteum Vienna, the University of Performing Arts in Ludwigsburg (Akademie für Darstellende Kunst in Baden-Württemberg) the puppetry department of the Akademia Teatralna im. Aleksandra Zelwerowicza) at Bialystok and the Swiss Academy of Drama (Accademia Teatro Dimitri). They agreed to take over fourteen SZFE classes and will recognize the credits they have earned so far. As the epidemiological situation worsened, the association switched to a digital work schedule: courses are held online, projects are developed without physical contact.
The long-term plan is to acquire a building with the help of donations and a foundation and to establish a private democratically run university with an international profile.
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London have decided to close the department of Theatre and Performance as part of a massive organisational remodelling of the structure of the museum. The department is one of the largest and most important resources for theatre and performance heritage worldwide. ITI’s partner organisation SIBMAS, the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts has startet a petition to stop the decision until the end of March, when the internal consultation ends.
“At a time, when the Performing Arts have been so badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, this national collection should be given more support to protect the past and record the present in order to inform future generations. This is a serious threat to the history of the British live performing arts. The collection is a vital educational and research resource on an international level.” says Alan Jones, SIBMAS President.
Karima Bennoune, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, has delivered her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council on March 2nd.
The facts and findings on the negative effects of the pandemic are pointing towards a “potential global cultural catastrophe … with severe, long-lasting consequences for cultural rights and other human rights.” At the moment, when culture was increasing valued as coping mechanism, means of building resilience, artists and cultural workers experienced increasing difficulties to continue their work. The office of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner developed a special web site for cultural rights in global crises with the recent reports and other relevant events and information.
Freemuse has published its annual report on worldwide oppression of artists and freedom of artistic expression. In 2020, 26% of all documented restrictions of artistic freedom – 978 cases in 89 countries and online – took place in Europe, followed by 22% in North and South America, 19% in the Middle East and North Africa, 15% in Asia and Pacific, 9% in Africa and 9% Online. 17 artists were killed, 82 were imprisoned and 133 detained. “This year’s report illustrates increasing misuses of blasphemy, anti-terrorism legislation, and COVID-19 measures as pretexts, to silence dissident voices of artists and artworks” commented Srirak Plipat, Freemuse Executive Director.