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NEW YORK (January 20, 2022) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and Gray Area Foundation for the Arts proudly welcome Syrian contemporary artist Tammam Azzam and Sudanese political cartoonist Khalid Albaih to the second cohort of the Art in Protest artists-in-residence. The Art in Protest Artist Residency is a three-month program for artists dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights globally, to explore and expand their digital practices. The residency will run from January 26 through March 22, 2022, and will take on a hybrid form, with both online sessions and in-person meetings at Gray Area’s headquarters in San Francisco, California. Resident artists Tammam Azzam and Khalid Albaih will culminate their residency with an exhibit at the 2022 Oslo Freedom Forum, taking place from May 23-25, 2022 at the Oslo Konserthus in Norway. 

“The Art in Protest Residency is a rare opportunity for dissident artists to explore new media through which to present their art and expand their reach with digital technology,” said HRF Executive Director of Art in Protest Holly Baxter. “HRF and Gray Area are pleased to continue cultivating this partnership, and have talented artists like Tammam Azzam and Khalid Albaih join our community.”

Born in Damascus, Syria in 1980, Tammam Azzam received his artistic training from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Damascus, with a concentration in oil painting. While living in Syria, Tammam combined his fine artwork with a prolific graphic design career, an experience which came to inform his artistic response to the conflict that engulfed his homeland. In 2011, Tammam was forced to leave Syria and relocate to the United Arab Emirates, and having lost his beloved studio in Damascus, he found himself looking for new ways to create art and express his feelings about the loss of his home country. Tammam used images of the destruction in Syria to create viral images juxtaposing the violence of the war in Syria with masterpieces from the classical European canon, posing questions about the nature of beauty, global inequality, and the changing role of the image in the digital age. Works such as ‘Freedom Graffiti’ were widely shared on social media and became iconic images of the Syrian revolution. Tammam’s recent work employs both painting and collage, bridging the barrier between figurative and abstract art. He is currently based in Germany.

“I am on the search for a new style that challenges what the traditional formula of art is. I am excited to find new modes of production for my artwork that are different to what I am used to.” 

– Syrian contemporary artist Tammam Azzam

Khalid Albaih is a Romanian-born, Qatari-raised, Sudanese creative, political cartoonist, and cultural producer. He is known for his cartoons about the Arab Spring that went viral across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. In 2018, he was named one of the top five cartoonists in the world by The Independent. In addition to two books in print — “Khartoon!” (2018) and “Sudan Retold” (2019) — Khalid’s cartoons have been published widely in international publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, PRI, NPR, and the BBC. His written social and political commentary has been printed in publications such as The Guardian, CNN, and Al Jazeera. Khalid has also participated in television and news programs worldwide as a trusted commentator on global political events, and is the founder of several cultural projects, including getfadaa.comSudanArtistFund.com, and SudanArtandDesignLibrary.com.

“The right circumstances set up by the Art in Protest Artist Residency will allow for me to take a step back and deeply investigate how I want to develop my art and future projects of creative dissent.” 

– Sudanese political cartoonist Khalid Albaih

The Art in Protest Artist Residency was launched in 2021, and featured the inaugural cohort of exiled Chinese dissident artist Badiucao and Belarusian illustrator and graphic designer Lilia Kvatsabaya. As a product of his residency, Badiucao will release his Beijing 2022 collection as limited edition non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — his first NFT drop. The collection will be available for minting at beijing2022.art, starting on February 1, 2022. Lilia Kvatsabaya has continued to develop her residency project focused on the 2020 elections in Belarus and subsequent protests. The project consists of 3D objects obtained through photogrammetry and scanning, using LiDAR technology. 

Lilia Kvatsabaya has continued to develop her residency project focused on the 2020 elections in Belarus and subsequent protests. The project consists of 3D objects obtained through photogrammetry and scanning, using LiDAR technology. 

“Some of the most impactful tools for advancing democracy and human rights are digital media and art,” said Gray Area Executive DirectorBarry Threw. “Through the Art in Protest Residency, we empower dissident artists with new ways to amplify their message, galvanize their communities, and apply pressure against the abuses of oppressive regimes around the world.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. 

For interview requests, please contact [email protected].

The Art in Protest program is HRF’s answer to the repression of creativity that authoritarian regimes impose. By promoting artists who embody the spirit of creativity and dissent, Art in Protest opens a dialogue about human rights and free expression, and aims to bring to a diverse audience the work of artists who are making an impact in the global struggle against authoritarianism.

Gray Area is a 21st-century countercultural hub catalyzing creative action for social transformation. Gray Area’s mission is to cultivate, sustain, and amplify a community of creative practitioners who apply antidisciplinary practice — including art, technology, science, and the humanities — towards engaging with the complex challenges facing our world. Through public events, education, and incubation we maintain a platform that enables creators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives to transcend boundaries within deep artistic collaboration and gain agency to impact the world through category-defying work.