Since 2016 we have taken initiative to achieve more effective actions to defend and promote human rights. As a result, we added the perspective of art to traditional strategies such as strategic litigation, research, public policy advocacy and training.
Argentina is recognized as a leader in the international human rights movement and CELS, with its nearly 40 years of experience, is at the heart of this movement. Since its founding in 1979, it has gone from being a small but powerful group of victims of state terrorism to being an organization made up of a broad and diverse set of professional activists. It was able to adapt to changing political realities and social necessities and undergo the needed institutional transformations to become today a national human rights organization, with a regional perspective and a global voice.
We find ourselves, however, at a new turning point. Throughout the world, human rights violations are being exacerbated by extreme social and economic inequality and by state responses that are ineffective, in the best of cases, and violent, in the worst of cases. In this context, communicating the human rights agenda becomes a permanent challenge.
Through their creations, artists are able to denounce injustice and inequality, challenge the status quo and synthesize complex problems which, combined with the poetic dimension of art, facilitates the comprehension of what human rights represent. Art has the ability to inspire and elicit empathy in its audience, which includes people who human rights organizations do not always reach.
Literature, film and video, theater, photography, visual arts, dance and other artistic forms have constituted a tool and provided support, context and the motive for diverse forms of memory, denouncement and reflection on human rights in Argentina. However, despite the fact that many artists are inspired by their concern over the same social problems that guide CELS’ work, the potential for this strategic alliance remains little explored.
The intersection between human rights activism and art had as an important precedent the experience of “Art for human rights,” in 2010, and it draws strength from CELS’ institutional role in the Parque de la Memoria, which is home to the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism.
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*Artwork: Obra: León Ferrari.