It is no coincidence that artists of all disciplines have been at the forefront of support for Amnesty International since its founding in 1961. Hundreds of writers, playwrights, musicians, and poets persecuted and imprisoned for their art have been adopted by Amnesty International as Prisoners of Conscience. Artists have always valued the freedoms and rights that Amnesty works to protect as an integral condition of their creative expression.
Artist for Amnesty (A4A) seeks to harness the creativity, commitment and support of artists of all disciplines in major global projects and initiatives for the benefit of Amnesty International and the cause of universal human rights.
Bringing together artists of all disciplines and friends of Amnesty International in a collaborative effort to support the organization’s work for human rights.
Amnesty International Philippines has gathered the support of more than 200 artists groups and individuals from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao during the celebration of Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary ([email protected]) in 2011. Concerts were held in Manila, Dumaguete and Zamboanga. Booths were set up at different bars within Metro Manila to mobilize support for Amnesty International ‘Be One More. Ask One More. Act Once More.’ Project.
During this collaboration with artists, a video was also launched featuring Francis Brew, Missy Maramara (theater actor), Jigs Mayuga (stylist), Vin Dancel and Pow Chavez entitled “Learn About Human Rights and Be Heard” and was used to promote the different issues Amnesty International supports.
This renewed engagement with artists led to an A4A Convention in 2012 which strengthened artists’ commitment to working for human rights with Amnesty International Philippines in raising awareness for local campaigns and projects.
In 2014, a week-long anniversary celebration was capped off by a concert led by long-time Artists for Amnesty supporters. Music as an art form has been used to show solidarity and amplify voices of those whose rights have been violated. Amnesty International is proud to work with artists who share the same vision of all human rights for all. Stop Torture was the main campaign for the year.
Taking Action with Artists for Amnesty
Taking this engagement up a notch, from the usual mobilization using arts-based activities in 2012 towards taking action for cases of individuals-at-risk (IAR) in 2014, Amnesty International Philippines started the ‘End Repression, Allow Expression’ Project where artist provided venue during their gigs for AIPh to set up action booths for photo petitions and signature campaigns. This partnership did not only open up AIPh to a more diverse audience but has reached activists among A4A followers who are already willing to take action and get more involved.
That same year, Ice Seguerra and Nicco Manalo agreed to shoot a video for the Stop Torture Campaign where they each rendered a monologue based on testimonies of torture victims – Alfreda Disbarro and Jerryme Corre – whose torturer incidentally has already been convicted under the Anti Torture Law recently in March 2016, a landmark case for the first ever torture conviction in the Philippines.
Liza Diño and Dingdong Dantes also shot advocacy videos for Amnesty International’s Stop Torture Campaign.
Growing Artist for Amnesty
Fighting for freedom of expression underpins artist engagement to the human rights advocacy, it is after all the fundamental right that they enjoy whilst practicing their craft. Amnesty International Philippines have collaborated with musicians and visual artists in the past and maintained close ties with them.
“Word of Mouth: Share the Rhythm, Spread the Rhyme Project and Ignite: Poetry Night and Candlelight
It has been a tradition to conduct tie up projects with Artists for Amnesty for our anniversary and human rights week celebrations. For the 54th anniversary we tapped Flying Ipis and Peryodiko for our photo action and signature campaign booth. Both bands also gave us a five-minute promotional speech in between sets to introduce Amnesty International campaigns during their gig with Jam 88.3’s Fresh Filter segment.
But what we did differently last year was to expand our reach and enjoined local literary talents, with hopes of mobilizing more individuals through the power of the written word. Amnesty International, after all, uses the power of written words through letter writing actions to bring change to peoples’ lives. The new additions to the roster of Artists for Amnesty are the poets of Drunken Poetry Night, White Wall Poetry and Cannabis Ink, among others. They were tapped for ‘Word of Mouth’ and ‘Ignite’. We hope to celebrate our anniversary and human rights week annually through poetry and music because sometimes the long and lonely struggle human rights defenders encounter in their activism can be renewed by solidarity and camaraderie. Artists for Amnesty help us rekindle the passion of many individuals to act once more for human rights.
Ignite for Rights: Art x Advocacy
Amnesty International Philippines would like to grow more with local artists in the country. We are strengthening our Artists for Amnesty supporter engagement such that we are able to open up to more fruitful partnerships.
Shifting to new strategic period for 2016 to 2019, Amnesty Philippines explored more engagement with different individuals from a variety of art disciplines. The theme ‘Taking Injustice Personally’, under the Ignite for Rights Project, harnessed the power of the individual in changing the narrative for human rights towards change that is felt by everyone. Amnesty International believes that true change can only be achieved if it brings about positive transformation in the lives of ordinary people. With the help of like-minded artists, we continue to multiply our reach and hope for a human rights future where all rights are tangible and accessible to everyone.
In 2017, through this project, Amnesty Philippines launched ‘Ignite Awards for Human Rights‘, honoring human rights defenders for the work they do to promote and protect human rights work. Ignite Awards serves as a tool in transforming the perception of Filipinos about human rights by showing that even ordinary people can do extraordinary work while bringing back prestige to activism and taking action for human rights. A special awards category called ‘Art that Matters’ recognizes artists in various art genres who uses their work to advance their human rights advocacy. Ignite Awards Season 1 honored Cha Roque for Art that Matters for Film in 2018, and Michael Tan for Art that Matters for Literature for Season 2 in 2020.
Other efforts like the first ever human rights comic convention was also held under Ignite for Rights project. The Ignite ComicCon featured the first Karapatana comics for the Global My Body, My Rights Campaign on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. In 2021, Adventures of Karapatana returns through the origins story issue launched on International Women’s Day in 2022.
A4A Beyond: Supporting artists in the time of COVID-19
Amnesty Philippines recognized the challenges brought about the pandemic that many artists are facing, an opportunity to help presented itself for Human Rights Week 2021. After several discussions with artists on how to uplift their livelihood, Amnesty Philippines has decided to provide a free virtual space where artists can showcase their art and a small honorarium to support them mobilize people to take action for human rights at the same time, the project is called ‘ART+FACTS’.