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Memory meets art in International Contest for Minority Artists

12 February 2024

2023 award winner Bianca Batlle Nguema painting in her workshop in Tiana, a village close to Barcelona, Spain.  © Martina Orobitg and Ariadna Tarifa

How can art and memory promote peace and respect for human rights?

The 2024 International Contest for Minority Artists, which this year focuses on the theme of memory in the present, is inviting artists to submit their work until 15 February 2024.

Organized by UN Human Rights and civil society organizations Minority Rights Group International and Freemuse, the third edition of the International Contest for Minority Artists aims to support the work of minority artists as human rights defenders and shed light on the histories and memories of minorities as a way to challenge discrimination, celebrate diversity and build peaceful societies.

“We wanted this contest to be a venue in which minority artists explore and expose, through their art, how memorialization can foster recognition of others and the consideration of all persons as rights holders,” said Claude Cahn, a human rights officer at UN Human Rights working on the initiative.

Fabián Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, has held that memorialization is a pillar of transitional justice, and necessary to address contemporary forms of exclusion and discrimination, including those affecting minority communities.

For Salvioli, memorialization is key to preserve and transmit accounts of past rights violations and harm suffered by all victims, with a view to informing society, restoring victims’ dignity, promoting reconciliation and preventing the recurrence of violations.

“This contest challenges stereotypes, promotes diversity, and advocates for the visibility of marginalized communities in the art world,” said Babatunde “Tribe” Akande, a multimedia artist from Lagos, Nigeria, and one of the four award-winners of the 2023 contest, which focused on the theme of intersectionality.

Another 2023 award winner, Bianca Batlle Nguema (featured above), a Barcelona-based artist who uses large-format canvases to expand narratives and remove stereotypes of the Afro-descent community, called on fellow minority artists worldwide to apply for the 2024 award.

“To change worldviews and attitudes, we need to raise our voices, and this is an excellent and caring platform to do it," she said.

Artists who identify as belonging to a minority are invited to submit high-quality electronic images of up to five works of art related to minorities and memory in the present. The judges panel will select three minority artists, groups of artists, or art projects to receive non-hierarchical awards and one minority artist to receive the Minority Artist Award for Youth.