Amnesty International teamed up with the world’s leading street art festival NUART to celebrate the bravery of human rights activists around the world. The organization collaborated with world-renowned muralist Ricky Lee Gordon to participate in the festival, which transformed the Norwegian city of Stavanger into an open-air gallery.
Adding his voice to Amnesty International’s ‘Brave’ campaign, Ricky Lee Gordon created a mural of Sakris Kupila, a human rights defender from Finland who has fought tirelessly for transgender rights in the face of harassment and intimidation.
‘Brave’ calls for an end to attacks against those defending human rights, in a context of increasing global hostility against activists. As part of the campaign Amnesty International teamed up with street artists to raise awareness of human rights defenders, and to explore the power of art to push boundaries and stimulate debate.
Ricky Lee Gordon said: “I make art in public because I’m interested in interconnectedness. I’m inspired by the world around me but also trying to understand that world. Putting work in public space, open to public commentary and for people to like or dislike also keeps the ego at bay.
“It breaks down a barrier that makes it ‘mine’ because, in the street, it belongs to everybody and becomes the interpretation of others. There is a freedom to express myself and possibly create public debate. That experience creates a feedback system that helps me understand and evolve as both a painter and a human being.
“I’m proud to be standing with human rights defenders around the world who are under attack for challenging the status quo. Expressing your ideas in a public space is always a risk, but that risk is amplified for people like Sakris whose fight to defend human rights makes them a target of hate. I wanted my piece to show who Sakris really is, and designed it as a celebration of someone who is brave enough to stand up for what is right at great personal cost.”
Sakris Kupila is advocating to change the law on gender recognition in Finland. It currently requires that a person should be over 18 years of age, have a psychiatric diagnosis and be sterilized or otherwise sterile. He said:
“Human rights defenders come from all walks of life. They might be students, journalists, teachers or street artists – what links them is their refusal to accept injustice. I have faced harassment, intimidation and physical threats, but I won’t stop fighting for the rights of trans people. I don’t want anyone else to feel like I did growing up, boxed into the wrong role and forced to make devastating choices about my future.
“Amnesty’s ‘Brave’ campaign asks us all to find the spark of courage inside to fight for what is right. NUART has given us an amazing platform to spread the word and ask more people to stand with the brave, to demand their recognition and protection and work together towards a fairer society.”
Amnesty International is calling on the Finnish authorities to make the legal process to change gender quick, accessible and respectful of human rights.
With ‘Brave’, Amnesty International is calling on governments around the world to step up their commitments to recognize and protect human rights defenders like Sakris, and ensure they can carry out their work in a safe environment. Find out more here.
NUART founder Martyn Reed said: “We’ve had a long a positive relationship with the regional Amnesty office over the years. Working on a global campaign that relates to transgender rights in a Scandinavian country and which uses the power of street art to effect positive social change, is absolutely the type of project we like to get behind and support.”