26 artists from 12 different countries.
Many people are waiting patiently in front of the gallery. Everybody wants to get in, the rest are watching the movie through the massive glass window. The hall is full. On the podium the winner of public award is announced. “In more than 30 Islamic countries being a homosexual is banned,” says the winner of the public award, Steve Rosenthal. “Very often we encounter the situation where gays are imprisoned, sentenced to be flogged or how it is shown on my work, just killed. Homosexuality is banned and those who have such a tendency are persecuted or arrested. It is a pure Middle Age approach; we cannot compare it to that of Europe. I’m very happy that the Passion for Freedom Festival is happening and maintains our biggest value, freedom. Thank you for the award.”
Another award was given to the authors of a book, The Hidden Blue Print of Freedom, Anthony and Thomas Pototschnik. “The book was emerging during two years of research, with my brother and with the support of the university milieu we did a case study, which results in the diagram showing how the freedom appeared since the beginning of the civilization and how it can easily disappear. Thank you for the award and enjoy the book,” says one of the brothers. All the books were sold out during the evening, but they are still available next week on the internet.
“Participation in such a competition is the act of solidarity with artists and all people whose rights to express freely are limited. We don’t want privileges, we want freedom. There are many beautiful and wise women here, it’s an honor to take part in this event,” says Roland Okon, author of black and white photography “Blind” – honorable mention.
This year, around 500 people gathered during the Passion for Freedom festival. “Artists came from different parts of the world: the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Nepal, Mexico, America, Afghanistan, shall I continue?” asks Agnieszka Kolek, curator of the exhibition, with a smile , “Iran and Israel. Artists know how important it is to have freedom of speech and freedom of women.” The festival takes place each year in London and is attracting more and more attention.
The honored guest of the festival, Jafar Panahi, was not able to come. He couldn’t attend the private view, because of his films. He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a 20 year ban on artistic activity, which precludes giving any form of interview to the Iranian or foreign media, as well as not being allowed to leave the country. He wasn’t able to escape. His movie “This is not the film” was greeted with applause by the audience gathered in the gallery.
“We stand here today with thousands of artists across the world that are imprisoned, harassed, tortured and even killed mainly for speaking up and speaking the truth.” says Maryam Namazie, Iranian founder of the European movement, One Law for All. “It’s not just artists in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and Syria, countries under Islamic rule that face these threats. We are having this festival here in London where it’s obviously freer for our artists but it’s still not completely free. There is a lot of censorship, a lot of intimidation that takes place against artists. From cancellations of exhibitions to pressure not to address issues that are called taboo. And of course religion is the most taboo subject and particularly Islam. Islam is the most taboo subject.
There is huge attempt to silence people from criticizing and questioning Islam. Nothing is more important than criticizing religion. That’s how society has advanced through the ages. Today nothing is more important than criticizing Islam and Islamism.”
The source of festival’s success lays in the idea that artists can be very powerful because they can represent issues around freedom in a beautiful and engaging way. “It’s true that Freedom is the foundation of our happiness. It is a profound value which we gained over hundreds of years and we should protect it. Where the government and politics failed, the artists will manage,” says Marianna Fox, organizer of the exhibition.
You are welcome to take part in the art competition next year, Passion for Freedom Festival 2012 which will have its great opening in October 2012 in London.
Passion for Freedom emerged in 2009 in London. Groups of friends from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Iran and Pakistan gathered professionals such as journalists, artists, architects and managers. Some of them live in hiding: they could be killed in their home countries for the activities that they have the freedom to do here.