Art-Lab Talks #4 - Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, Artist-Heroes in our Midst
The purpose of “Art-Lab Talks” is to document the transformative power of the arts for vulnerable populations involved in artistic creations.
The “Talks” is a series of web articles selected from a large collection of ethical practices identified by the Art-Lab Platform consisting of “artivists”, i.e. artists, heads of cultural institutions, practitioners, journalists, and researchers, committed to supporting people whose human rights are being violated.
On a monthly basis, the focus will be on a specific group of underprivileged people suffering from exclusion (refugees, migrants, people living in post-conflict zones, and the most marginalized).
A list of “ethical principles” for putting the concerns of the vulnerable groups at the core of artistic practices has been identified based on these “Talks”, to help them to escape from their current predicament, and to convey their claims for human rights and dignity. These principles will be disseminated within the framework of Art-Lab in order to root them at the core of humanitarian programmes ensuring that those who are left behind are actively considered as participants in the achievement of the SDGs.
This fourth edition of UNESCO's Art-Lab Talks highlights the work of the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change, including a documentary film about them. Fatu Gayflor, one of the Chorus’ initiators was invited to participate in the Art-Lab event entitled: “The imperative of Cultural Justice” held by UNESCO on 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day.
The Chorus is composed of four accomplished singers and dancers from Liberia who came to the United States as refugees and immigrants following Liberia’s civil conflict (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). During the war years, two remained in Liberia, composing anthems for peace and, eventually, working on disarmament and the rehabilitation of child soldiers, through song and dance. Two became refugees in neighboring countries. They performed for other refugees as a way to honor loss, singing to soldiers about alternatives to violence, and passing cultural values on to young people through the creation of an arts troupe. This Art-Lab Talks essay is written by Toni Shapiro-Phim, director of the film Because of the War, featuring these women’s stories.