The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. This year’s laureates are Zimbabwean activist and playwright Silvanos Mudzvova, Venezuelan satirical media project El Chigüire Bipolar, and Bahraini poet and activist Aayat Alqormozi. Their efforts will be honored in a ceremony during the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday, May 24, at 10:00 a.m. Central European Time.
Silvanos Mudzvova is a Zimbabwean actor, playwright, and activist known for challenging the country’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, in daring theatrical productions. Silvanos works with the protest group Tajamuka (“We are rising up”) and serves as the director of Vhitori Entertainment Trust, a theater group created to protest Zimbabwe’s democracy crisis, human rights abuses, and poor governance. Silvanos has directed several controversial performances including “The Final Push,” a political satire; “Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share;” a play on corruption in the diamond industry; and “Protest Revolutionaries,” a play that encourages Zimbabweans to plan their own Arab Spring. Silvanos has been detained and arrested several times. To avoid government persecution, Silvanos now performs what he calls “hit-and-run” performances in public spaces. Silvanos has been awarded an Artist Protection Fund (APF) Fellowship and is currently in-residence for this at The University of Manchester.
“Silvanos Mudzvova’s persistence in using art and performance to challenge dictatorship is an inspiration. The persecution of Silvanos illustrates Robert Mugabe’s cruelty, intolerance, and cowardice,” said Havel Prize Committee Chairman Thor Halvorssen.
El Chigüire Bipolar is a Venezuelan satirical media project created in 2008 by Elio Casale, Oswaldo Graziani, and Juan Andrés Ravell. The website, most famous for mocking former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, is often described as a mix of the Onion and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. El Chigüire Bipolar’s popularity in Venezuela grows as the government increases pressure on independent news outlets.
“El Chigüire Bipolar is playing an increasingly crucial role in resisting Maduro’s campaign to stifle free speech. Its raw humor and exacting analysis demonstrates the great power that satire has in criticizing authoritarian regimes,” said Havel Prize Committee member Garry Kasparov.
Aayat Alqormozi is a Bahraini poet who uses her craft to advocate for the equal rights of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims, and to express her opposition to Bahrain’s monarchy. In 2011, Aayat recited poetry during a protest at Pearl Square as a part of the Bahraini uprising. In response, she was expelled from university and imprisoned for “insulting the King and encouraging hatred of the ruling regime.” Nevertheless, Aayat’s poetry and peaceful defiance have made her a symbol of resistance against the al-Khalifa regime.
“Aayat’s methods for peaceful resistance are motivating the next generation of artists and political dissidents in Bahrain. Her commitment to poetry as a vehicle for social and political change is worthy of recognition and encouragement,” said Havel Prize Committee member Amir Ahmad Nasr.
The Havel Prize laureates will each receive an artist’s representation of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989. Each sculpture embodies the spirit and literal reality of creative dissent at its finest, representing the struggle of truth and beauty against brute power. The three laureates will also share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian kroner.
The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at10:00 a.m. Central European Time on Wednesday, May 24. The event will take place at the Oslo Nye Theater.