The connection between Human Rights and Art

To celebrate Human Rights Month, Tiyanna Mistry explores the connection between Human Rights and Art, highlighting the work of Banksy and the Red Sand Project.

Tiyanna Mistry
11th December 2020
According to Article 27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.’ So why then, are so many people denied these basic rights and how do we overcome societal predispositions that deny us of our human rights?

Many of us turn to Art as an answer and solution. Art plays a vital role in promoting the culture of human rights. As humans, we use Art mainly as a means of self-expression, without fully appreciating the power that it can hold. We often forget that it is so much more than self-expression; it’s a huge facilitator for change; we can influence minds and spread awareness to the whole of society through this powerful medium.

Human Rights and Art are irrevocably intertwined. Throughout history, we have used art to depict human rights and human rights to further art. In the vast world that we live in, many Artists work to illustrate this intertwining nature between Art and Human rights. One artist, in particular, is Banksy. Banksy has consistently expressed the connection between art and human rights whilst also keeping his identity a closely guarded secret.  

Following the Black Lives Matter Movement this year, Banksy revealed new artwork, showing his support. The artwork had depicted a vigil scene with a candle that was setting alight an American Flag. This clearly reflects the failures in the so-called ‘justice’ system and highlights the deprivation of human rights towards minority groups in society. This artwork is just one example of Banksy’s socio-political pieces.

Banksy supports Black Lives Matter with latest artwork | Banksy | The  Guardian
Banksy's piece | Credit: @banksy on instagram

Another famous artist who has delved into human rights in their artwork is Molly Gochman who launched the ‘Red Sand Project’ in 2014, after realizing the depths to which slavery continues to be a contemporary reality. Red Sand Project encourages people to pour red sand into cracks on sidewalks to recognize the overlooked populations (refugees, immigrants, girls, and others) that are at risk of slavery and exploitation.

As people, we stand up for our rights through expression. Due to its ability to produce interest, promote solidarity and ignite protest, Art plays a pivotal role in society by promoting human rights advocacy. Especially in the modern age, surrounded by technology and the media, society must respect human rights.

Featured Image: Artwork in the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta), Wikimedia Commons

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