Any limits to Freedom of Expression?

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In 2017, a work titled #fuckwhitepeople created in 2016 by genderqueer artist Dean Hutton was the subject of a lawsuit after it was displayed in an exhibition, The Art of Disruptions, at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town. The case was brought to the courts by a fringe political party on charges of hate speech that Magistrate Daniel Thulare dismissed; cultural observers followed the case to see if it was also a test of freedom of expression.

 

Section 16 of the South African Constitution guarantees Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Creativity. Magistrate Daniel Thulare ruled that the poster displaying the phrase, “Fuck White People” in black-and-white capital letters did not amount to hate speech and was not racist because it was “within the context of protest art”.

 

Dean Hutton, a masters student in fine art at the time, said the work was inspired by black intellectual thought and represented a demand for the “complete dismantling of the systems of power that keep white people racist”. Dean Hutton will be one of the featured artists at the inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Festival presented by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal from 5 – 8 May 2021.  Hutton will be in dialogue with Constitutional Law Expert Professor Pierre de Vos.

 

Hutton will be joined on the panel by film-maker Hajooj Kuka, whose work in the war-torn regions of Sudan led to him being named one of the Leading Global Thinkers by the Foreign Policy Magazine. He trains and works with conflict-affected and marginalised communities through theatre of the oppressed and various film projects. His films have screened in over a hundred festivals worldwide, and he has received numerous awards. Kuka is an Academy Member (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and a Berlinale Talent Alumni.

 

In 2020, Kuka was one of five Sudanese artists who was jailed for two months and fined on charges of causing a public nuisance, in what some observers have described as a crackdown on art and activism. The Centre for Creative Arts issued a statement at the time condemning the arrest stating that Kuka’s films are both a condemnation of war and a tribute to the power of human transcendence, themes that were running very strongly at the Durban International Film Festival and in the values the Centre for Creative Arts.

 

Completing the panel will be the South African spoken-word artist, rapper, activist and hip hop artist Iain Ewok Robinson, who effectively used his art to galvanise people on a wide range of issues, partnering with recognised civil organisations and drawing attention to their concerns and actions.

 

 and Dutch artist TBC

 

Moderator Pierre de Vos is the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance and teaches in the area of Constitutional Law. He has a B Comm (Law), LLB and LLM (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch, an LLM from Columbia University in New York, and an LLD from the University of Western Cape. He taught at the University of Western Cape from 1993 to June 2009 and held a Professorship at that institution from 2001. Prof de Vos is the chairperson of the Board of the Aids Legal Network and is a board member of the Triangle Project. He writes a blog on social and political issues from a constitutional law perspective.

The inaugural Artfluence Human Rights Arts Festival focusing on arts, constitution, and democracy will be presented by the Centre for Creative Arts in partnership with the Embassy of the Netherlands. Voices of Hope, Courage and Resilience will be the theme for the inaugural festival. It will mark the 25th anniversary of the Centre for Creative Arts as a vibrantly creative enabler and advocate for social justice and democracy and the  25th anniversary of the adoption of the South African Constitution. The inaugural festival will run for four days, from Wednesday 5 May to Saturday 8 May 2021. The Freedom of Expression panel will be screening on Wednesday, 5 May at 5 pm. The festival is freely accessible and can be watched via www.facebook.com/artfluencefest and www.youtube.com/centreforcreativearts.

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