Artivism (Level 1 Gallery)

April 30, 2021 to March 26, 2022

This exhibition has passed.

Several white plaster faces hang from strings, inside a cage. Partially obscured.

Photo: Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Exhibition details

Artivism is an exhibition that explores artistic expression as a powerful response to large‐scale violations of human rights. It features the work of six artists and art collectives whose work takes an activist approach to expose, denounce and prevent mass atrocities.

Through their work, these “artivists” advocate for a world that respects the human rights of all individuals. Their art illuminates the importance and difficulty of recognizing and remembering atrocity. Their activism demonstrates that we all can play a part in upholding human rights and preventing mass violence.

The artists, art collectives and installations featured in Artivism are:

  • Aida Šehović – ŠTO TE NEMA (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

    The installation ŠTO TE NEMA (Why are You Not Here?) features traditional Bosnian coffee cups collected in memory of the 8,372 Bosnian Muslims killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

  • Grupo de Arte Callejero – Street signs (Argentina)

    The Grupo de Arte Callejero (Street Artist Group) or GAC is a collective of artists that creates and posts street signs in Argentina to commemorate human rights violations committed during the military dictatorship of 1976–1983 and demand that perpetrators be held accountable.

  • Intuthuko Embroidery Project – Apartheid Embroidery Series (South Africa)

    A group of women in South Africa established the Intuthuko (to progress) Embroidery Project to build community, raise funds and tell their own stories about life during and after apartheid.

  • Rebin Chalak – Masks of Yazidi Women (Iraqi Kurdistan)

    During the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by the so‐called Islamic State (ISIS), Yazidi women were often raped, captured, and forced to marry ISIS members. To tell their stories, Iraqi Kurdish artist Rebin Chalak cast masks from the faces of survivors.

  • Objects from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (Canada)

    A variety of art and objects were donated to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, an inquiry into the experiences of Indigenous children forced to attend Indian residential schools. These objects are part of the testimonies that survivors shared about their experiences of being taken from their families and placed into the schools, where children were frequently abused and forced to renounce their cultures, languages, and relationships.

  • Elisabeth Ida Mulyani – Oleh‐oleh and Supervivere (Indonesia)

    These installations commemorate individuals who were kidnapped, killed and exiled for alleged ties with communism under the dictatorial regime in Indonesia from 1965 to the 1990s. Oleh‐oleh consists of 13 cast golden ears, representing 13 activists who were kidnapped in the 1990s for speaking out against the regime. Supervivere is a photographic series featuring images of Indonesian exiles who were made stateless when the Indonesian government revoked their citizenship in 1965.

Artivism also invites visitors to take the 60/60/60 challenge – a commitment to take action in relation to a human rights issue that they feel passionate about, whether they have 60 seconds, 60 minutes, or 60 days to contribute.

Several white plaster faces hang from strings, inside a cage.

Rebin Chalak, Masks of Yazidi Women, 2014–2019.

Photo: Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

In 2014, the so‐called “Islamic State” (or ISIS) perpetrated a genocide against Yazidis, a small ethnic and religious group in Northern Iraq. Yazidis were forced to convert from Yazidism to Islam or be killed. Yazidi women and girls were often captured, imprisoned in cages like the one displayed here, and forced into marriage with ISIS members. Iraqi‐Kurdish artist Rebin Chalak met with Yazidi women who survived and escaped their captors. To tell their stories and raise awareness of the plight and experiences of Yazidi women, Chalak cast their faces as masks. The 23 masks featured in Artivism represent a small percentage of the estimated hundreds of women and girls who suffered this violence.

A colourful quilt with varied panels, including designs such as a bird, a heart, a teepee, a woman cleaning a floor, and lines of text under the title “Jesus Loves Me.”

Various Artists, Crimes Against Humanity Healing Quilt, 2008.

Photo: Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Anishinaabe quilter Alice Williams from Curve Lake First Nation, Ontario, organized the “Living Healing Quilt Project” with support from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Many women who were forced to attend Indian residential schools, as well as others who have experienced the intergenerational effects of the schools, participated from across the country. They sewed individual panels depicting their memories of residential schools. These were then stitched together into three quilts: Schools of ShameChild Prisoners, and Crimes Against Humanity (featured in Artivism). The quilts tell a complex story of trauma, loss, isolation, recovery, healing and hope through women’s eyes.

A series of colourful embroidery panels on black fabric displayed on a wooden hand-cranked conveyer belt table and on the wall of a museum.

Intuthuko Embroidery Project, Apartheid Embroidery Series, 2010–2011.

Photo: Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Apartheid, meaning apartness or separateness, was a state policy in South Africa from 1948–1994. Everyone in South African society was categorized into racial groups. White people were at the top of this hierarchy, and Black people were at the bottom. This system created extreme inequality and violence, and severely restricted the freedom and rights of Black South Africans. In 2002, a group of women in South Africa found a way to communicate their past traumas by forming the Intuthuko (to progress) Embroidery Project. They use their embroidery skills to help build community, raise funds for their families, and share stories of life during apartheid.

Visit Artivism for moving and inspiring encounters with artivists whose work invites us to remember, expose and prevent mass atrocities, and promote human rights for all.

Artivism runs in the Level 1 Gallery, starting April 30, 2021. This exhibition is being presented along with Witness Blanket: Preserving a legacy, which explores a powerful art installation created by Carey Newman to bear witness to the truths of residential school Survivors.

Artivism was developed by the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass atrocities, curated by Dr. Kerry Whigham, Francesca Giubilei and Luca Berta, and first displayed at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The version at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was adapted by the Museum in collaboration with the Auschwitz Institute. The 60/60/60 Challenge was created in collaboration with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia.

Artivism is generously supported by:

To find out more about Artivism, visit the online exhibition by the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.

Dive deeper

Remembering the Srebrenica Genocide

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Kerim Bajramovic and Aida Šehović are both Bosniaks touched by the Srebrenica Genocide in different ways. Their perspectives offer distinct personal lenses through which we can learn about Srebrenica and its legacy.

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Us vs. Them: The process of othering

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Explore the relationship between othering, human rights violations and the process of genocide through the lenses of the Holocaust and the Rohingya genocide.

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What led to the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda?

By Jeremy Maron

Learn how division, dehumanization and incitement of hatred set the stage for genocide.

A large crowd of people of all ages carrying food and belongings walk toward the camera on a long dirt road through a bright green landscape of grass and bushes. The road and the crowd extend far into the distance.

Childhood denied

A story about Indian residential schools and their legacy

A group of boys in pyjamas kneel on single beds, heads bowed and hands clasped as if in prayer. A woman stands in the room, her hands clasped in the same way.