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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sister Fa awarded the 2011 Freedom to Create Prize

November 21, 2011

Sister Fa, an internationally renowned female rap artist from Senegal, who has devoted her work to raising awareness on the dangers of female genital cutting, was awarded the 2011 Freedom to Create Prize, yesterday 20 November 2011 at an awards ceremony and concert at the Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, South Africa.

Announcing the winner at the awards ceremony, Freedom to Create spokesperson Priti Devi said, "We applaud the courage of Sister Fa and admire the creative use of her music to speak out against a practice that infringes on the basic human dignity and rights of women and girls. Sister Fa is an inspiring example of the transformative power of the arts to affect real change in the world."

"Sister Fa is a powerful example of how many artists around the world are using their talent to be the voice of courage in their community, standing up for social justice and in defense of human dignity." Devi added.

Sister Fa received the award from the guest of honour, 2011 Freedom to Create Prize judge, author and chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Achmat Dangor.

Music - a powerful tool

On receiving the award, Sister Fa commented, "The Freedom to Create Prize has given me the opportunity to further raise awareness of the traumatic and harmful consequences of this widely practiced tradition. In Africa, if you play any music in an open space, people generally come to listen to your music. It is a powerful tool to reach out to people, to bring them together. I believe in using my music to help the young people - who are the future of Senegal - to understand that they are not alone and that we can rise together to create a movement for social change."

The prize is a US$100 000 award, which is divided across two categories - Main and Imprisoned Artists, and was established in 2008 to celebrate artists who use their talents to promote social justice and inspire the human spirit. This year, the prize attracted 2 051 entries from over 145 countries, including 56 from South Africa.

Other winners

First runner-up of the main prize was presented by the Mayor of Cape Town Patricia de Lille, to Ayat Al-Gormezi, a 20 year old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers in Bahrain, who was put on trial and detained for merely expressing her opinion peacefully and openly. Her bravery and willingness to take a risk in the struggle for justice has raised awareness of the numerous women imprisoned in Bahrain.

Receiving the award on behalf of Ayat, who is faced with a travel ban, her brother Mohamed Hasan Yusuf said, "I am very grateful for this recognition of my sister's courage by Freedom to Create. Ayat's call for justice was no more radical than that heard on the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi at the same time, but her severe punishment has been one of the most sinister attacks on free speech in recent times. The Freedom to Create Prize has provided Ayat with a global platform to continue using her creativity to demand justice and equal rights for all in Bahrain."

Ramy Essam, the "singer of the Egyptian revolution", was the second runner up for the main prize. Essam spent 18 days in Tahrir Square in Cairo, writing music and performing songs to motivate the protesters, risking his life and suffering threats and attacks from the military police, but refusing to leave until Mubarak's regime collapsed.

Essam said, "Having witnessed the corrupt practices during Mubarak's regime, I felt incredibly strongly about the need to speak up against such corruption. I felt a sense of responsibility to the people who risked their lives to protest on the streets of Cairo. Through my songs, I captured the fear, optimism and defiant demand for change that was sweeping across the country, allowing the rest of the world to witness our revolution. The Freedom to Create Prize has inspired me to continue to use music as a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves."

Music also featured strongly in the Imprisoned Artist Prize category with Win Maw, one of Burma's most famous musicians, being awarded the US$25 000 prize. Win Maw contributed his musical talent to the award-winning documentary 'Burma VJ'. Win Maw expresses the political views of the Burmese people with his music, which provides a rallying point for the masses during the numerous political upheavals in Myanmar. He is a leading exponent of artists giving voice to democratic movements for social change.

The singer and human rights activist Win Maw has been imprisoned in Myanmar (formerly Burma) since 2008. In 2009 he was sentenced to further ten years imprisonment - an addition to the eight year sentence he received in 2008. The 2011 Imprisoned Artist Prize was presented by the Sudanese theatre activist, Ali Mahdi Nouri, winner of the 2010 Freedom to Create prize.

Receiving the award on behalf of Win Maw, his representative Aung Thwin said, "Despite the risks to his personal safety, Win Maw continues to inspire young artists with his music even from prison. He was beaten and tortured during the early stages of his detention, accused of being the mastermind behind the in-country news coverage of the September 2007 monk-led uprising. Win's arrest has brought pain and struggle to his family, wife and children. His wife now shoulders the responsibility for the children's education and the family's survival."

"The Freedom to Create Prize has given Win Maw and his family the platform to continue using his music to strive for democracy and freedom for all imprisoned artists around the world, and advocate for his release from prison", he added.

Congratulating Win Maw, Burma's pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi shared this message with the audience at the Freedom to Create concert in a specially recorded video. "It is a matter of pride for us that the Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist award has been won by a Burmese this year. It is also a matter of sadness for us because it means that our artists are imprisoned for their beliefs, they are prisoners of conscience."

"Artists help to create more beauty in this world to open our eyes to aspects of our life that otherwise we may not have noticed. To imprison them for their beliefs, their ideas, is to make our world narrower. I know Win Maw personally and I've always appreciated his dedication to music. I hope that it will not be long before Win Maw himself will be able to come to thank Freedom to Create personally for the support that you've given him during his time of need", added Suu Kyi.

To read the full article on the BizCommunity website, click here