On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNESCO, as forum for dialogue and intercultural exchanges, gave the floor to eight international artists selected by the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris, at its Headquarters in Paris, on 11 December 2018. Lia Rodrigues, Alonzo King, Phia Ménard, Taïgué Ahmed, Fabrice Bwabulamutima, Marcia Barcellos, Freddy Tsimba and Bachar Mar-Khalifé were on stage as part of a unique event entitled “Art Lab: Dialogue with World Artists for Human Rights”.
In this 70th year of the Declaration, human rights are in a fragile state, as pointed out by all artists, who question and contextualize the implementation of the Declaration. These choreographers, visual artists, and musicians revealed to us their bold artistic choices and personal journeys. Wherever human dignity is under threat, they are there, bearing witness, sometimes as victims, and as messengers.
Their work addresses the plight of migrants and refugees, social injustice, the management of multiple cultural identities, collective memory, art therapy in post-conflict situations, and gender issues. Engaged notably with underprivileged communities in Africa and Latin America, they spoke about the concrete impact of art on the rehabilitation of human dignity.
The artists presented spotlights on essential aspects of our humanity: cultural diversity, a source of innovation, creativity and cultural solidarity. Culture is an important factor in the development and preservation of societies which have been profoundly damaged and divided by war, particularly after periods of extreme violence. Heralds of the issues relevant to our time and facilitators of intercultural dialogue, the artists and their work inspire us. They go beyond aesthetics to “heal”, to participate in transitional justice and remembrance in order to consolidate peace and human dignity. Through their stories, they also open the door to empathy for the “enemy” and to the understanding of suffering, which are fundamental steps in the path toward reconciliation. True creators, they practice their art in the service of society and call for unity through cathartic experiences, because works of art provide a mirror for society.
Didier Deschamps, Director of the Théâtre National de Chaillot and Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO opened the event. The journalist Audrey Pulvar moderated this “space-time” experience, in which the subject of artistic freedom gives rise to the question of the status and protection of the artist.