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Artwatch Africa at Durban International Film Festival 2015

Public interest in freedom of expression has escalated dramatically since the Charlie Hebdo killings in January. An Al-Jazeera news item reported that media coverage of freedom of expression jumped from 2% in 2014 to over 23% in early 2015. Whilst freedom of expression is a right widely enshrined in the constitutions of nations across Africa, these rights are frequently not upheld. It is not just political parties or journalists that are vulnerable constituencies, but also activists from the arts and culture sectors; increasingly in some countries, artists that speak out on social and political issues are subjected to harassment, censorship or even arrest.

These and related issues are a core feature of Arterial Network’s three-fold presence at the 36th edition of the Durban International Film Festival, as part of its Artwatch Africa artist rights programme.

Aimed at artists, cultural practitioners, journalists and human rights organisations, and coordinated by Arterial Network South Africa, a closed 3-day workshop provides an opportunity to deepen understanding of human rights, cultural rights and artist rights, and will empower advocacy activities for the promotion, monitoring and defence offreedom of creative expression within local contexts. Similar Artwatch Africa workshops have taken place inNigeria, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Mali, DRC, Uganda, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Algeria, Zambia, Gabon, Tanzania, Republic of Congo, Benin, Kenya, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Morocco during the past year.

An open-to-all session in conjunction with DIFF’s Talents programme is the  “Behind the Veil – Arterial Network and ArtWatch Africa Exchange on Creativity and Censorship” on 21st July at 14.00 in Suite 4, Elangeni Hotel. This interactive engagement explores censorship in Africa and includes a data gathering component aimed at understanding the nature of restrictions that inhibit artistic practice in respective countries.

Finally, during the Durban International Film Festival Award Night, an Artwatch Africa Award will be presented to an African film that meaningfully engages with the issues of Freedom of Expression. The Artwatch Africa project promotes the value of creative expression for society and the role creativity plays in personal development, social cohesion or social change; it recognises the transformative power of cinema and its importance in raising awareness and conscientisation. This award celebrates activism in the arts, and honours the courage of filmmakers and their subjects. The Award is accompanied by a R15,000 cash prize.

The Artwatch Africa Jury comprises Junaid Ahmed – award winning filmmaker; Gcina Mhlophe – award winningauthor, poet, playwright, director, performer and storyteller; René Alicia Smith – Executive Dean (Acting): Faculty of Arts & Design at Durban University of Technology; and Peter Rorvik – Secretary-General of Arterial Network.

Artwatch Africa is supported by Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, Swedish Postcode Lottery, Swedish Institute, HIVOS, Mimeta, Goethe Institute and Doen Foundation.

With representation in more than 40 African countries Arterial Network is engaged in building sustainable networks,information dissemination, training, policy formulation,advocacy, and African-centred research, all geared towards growing and strengthening the cultural and creative sectors in Africa.

Visit  www.arterialnetwork.org or call 021-4612023 for more information.

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