Freedom to Create (FTC), a Singapore-based independent organization that addresses issues of social injustice and repression across the world through the medium of art, is showcasing the work of 29 artists from various countries in its maiden exhibition in India.
The organization awards prizes in three categories annually to such artists. The exhibition, which opened on Thursday, displays the work of artists who were shortlisted for the 2010 prizes. More than 70 works cutting across genres—from video art to painting and photography—are on display.
“We are an independent, self-perpetuating organization committed to supporting the courage and creativity of individuals trying to usher change in marginalized communities,” says Priti Devi, spokesperson, FTC.
One of the two artists who have travelled to India with the exhibition is Abir Abdullah, a Bangladeshi photographer who received a commendation for his work documenting the victims of acid attacks in his homeland. The spate of acid attacks on unsuspecting women began in 2005.
Abdullah, distressed at the situation, armed himself with a camera and met the women when they would come together on occasions such as Women’s Day. “Many of the women turned down my requests to photograph them,” he says. Over time, he gained their trust—and was allowed to photograph them. “I always wanted to shoot them with dignity. My real prize arrived when I showed the photos to the women and saw the smiles on their faces,” says the photographer.
The other artist travelling with the exhibition is Palestinian photographer Laura Boushnak. Her commendation in the FTC Prize 2010 was for her work with Egyptian women. In a country where the female literacy rate is as low as 45%, the 34-year-old’s work with a group of women who were learning to read and write spanned almost a year. As in Abdullah’s project, many of the women initially refused to be photographed. When Boushnak first visited the group, very few could even write their names. When she returned to shoot after a few months, they were writing complete sentences.
The photographs blend the artist’s perspective with the newfound voices of the women, in the guise of sentences scribbled over the images in their own handwriting. “I printed the images in Cairo and the women wrote on the pictures. Since the quality got hampered in the process, I had to resort to Photoshop after scanning the photos,” explains Boushnak.
Freedom to Create is on display in Mumbai till 2 June. Details in the Mumbai listing.