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Minorities and marginalised groups

International art contest to highlight minority artists work on statelessness

29 March 2022

Art contest judge and minority artist Yuliya Lanina’s work “Gefilte Fish” addresses intergenerational trauma stemming from the Holocaust in Ukraine and examines the societal and personal silencing of truth which perpetuates the cycle of abuse.

“In a world of intense involuntary migration, internal conflicts and alienation from the state, so many people face the daunting reality of statelessness,” said Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights.

One way to start a creative conversation about statelessness, UN Human Rights and its partners have launched a contest to engage artists working in all mediums.

A newly launched Minorities Artists Awards on Statelessness organized by UN Human Rights, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the NGO Freemuse provides an opportunity for minority artists to showcase their work on statelessness.

According to UN Human Rights, one of the leading causes of statelessness is discrimination, including on the grounds of minority status, religion or belief, age, gender identity or gender expression, disability, language, racial or ethnic origin, sex, sex characteristics or sexual orientation — or a combination of these.

It is estimated that more than 75% of the world’s known stateless populations belong to minority groups. UNHCR estimates there are at least 12 million stateless people worldwide.

“This exhibition enables minority artists to convey some of the emotions relating to statelessness. The stories of stateless people must not be lost; the work of minority artists must be visible. This competition does both,” Xanthaki said.

A select group of minority artists will be part of a judges panel to select three winners and will base the review on merit, relevance of the artists views and work on the topic of statelessness, creativity, and innovation.

Yuliya Lanina, a judge of the contest and multidisciplinary artist of Jewish background considers herself a displaced minority artist. During World War II, her grandparents escaped from their village in Ukraine to Moscow to avoid being killed by the Nazis. In 1990, she also experienced antisemitism in Moscow and had to flee to the United Sates.

“This award is important as minorities often have to leave places they are from due to violence against them yet are often clumped together with the majority from back home and not recognized for their uniqueness once they arrive in a new place,” she said. “Many remain stateless, often being denied rights and privileges. Artists can bring visibility to this issue, and this award will support their efforts and increase the visibility of their artwork.”

Artists who self-identify as belonging to a national or ethnic, religious or linguistic minority can apply to the international art contest and any artwork with statelessness as a theme are eligible, including photography, painting, video, installation, drawing, sculpture, dancing, and music. The deadline to enter is 21 June 2022 and the winners will be announced on 4 November 2022.

The art contest is also part of the celebration marking the 30th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Minorities.