What follows is not a review, as I have not been able to visit this exhibition, currently in Geneva. However, I have been sent the link to the exhibition catalogue, which I will share at the end of this brief introduction to an important, striking and moving series of works on the increasingly relevant theme of Statelessness. Minority artists, who have all had personal experience of Statelessness, either currently or previously, were asked to submit five works relating to themes relating to Statelessness. There were thirty nine submissions from twenty three different countries and the judges decided on three winners and four honourable mentions and the work of all seven artists can be seen in the online catalogue.
Multiple variants of discrimination against minorities ,such as on ethnic, religious, nationality, linguistic grounds can lead to the denial of citizenship. There are now 4.2 million stateless people worldwide. This exhibition marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Minority Rights and is a timely visual reminder of the fraught and fragmentary existence of those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the situation of Statelessness across the globe. I will give a brief overview of each of the winners and include a visual for each artist.
The first winner , as mentioned in the catalogue, is Abdullah, who experienced Statelessness in Myanmar, as a member of the Rohingya minority community , and is currently in a refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar , in Bangladesh. He is a photographer and videographer and poignantly records, in documentary detail , the daily lives of people in the camp. He does this with great sensitivity, dealing with his subjects with empathy and portraying them with considerable dignity. His work is extremely moving.
The next artist , Jean Philippe Moiseau, initially from Haiti and now living in the Dominican Republic, is very different . He is an artist and sculptor, frequently using ‘found’ and recycled items in his work . The judges found his use of traditional materials and techniques to convey a radical political message compelling . I have chosen his visual critique of the 2013 ruling of Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic revoking the Dominican Republic nationality for many Haitians.
The final winner, Zehra Hassan Marian is an artist , working in watercolours and ink, and author ,who was born in Kuwait, a member of the Ayam minority. She now lives in the USA , where she has gained citizenship. Her work, as catalogued here , comprises a children’s book, ‘ Where Butterflies Fill the Sky: A story of immigration, family and finding home’ . It is a distinctive contribution as it offers a hopeful message directed towards immigrant children.
I cannot do justice here to the range of artists and media used in this exhibition in the elucidation of the theme of Statelessness, the title has a link to the competition and this is the link to the online catalogue for further information on this crucial topic.