Baz-Art – a South African urban art NGO and host of the 2022 International Public Art Festival (IPAF) – would like to address the concern around Israeli artist collective BrokenFingaz participating in this year’s event and their embassy’s contribution to their participation.
We made the decision to host BrokenFingaz to the 2022 IPAF, and welcomed the collective’s in Cape Town. The group is deeply critical of its lived reality in Haifa, a mixed Arab Jewish city in Israel, using the medium of street art to campaign for peace and dialogue with a consistent and profound anti-occupation and anti-war commentary, present in both their public statements and interviews. They have worked in collaboration with many Palestinian artists and organisations over their career and approach art as an important avenue for peace.
There are also several similarities between the Israeli context and our own. When asked why the group wants to participate in the IPAF, BrokenFingaz said.
“We wanted to explore the pervasive power of political narratives that are reinforced by governments and the moments in history when the public, through actions like protest, forced cracks in this dominant story.”
Although, Baz-Art’s code of ethics clearly states that we are a non-political as well as non-religious organisation, we believe that silence can equate to violence and there are times when one should use one’s platform to speak out for what is right. Considering the call for a cultural boycott, we pose the question of how to engage with artists who are part of the peace movement?
After consulting with different non-governmental community organisations, we decided to discontinue the sponsorship agreement with the Isreali Embassy in South Africa, including a refund of all contributions. The festival will be carrying any costs incurred.
Given our aforementioned values and BrokenFingaz’ position and artistic mission, we are proud to have them continue their participation independently without any sponsorship in the IPAF.
Street art is historically a means of campaigning for positive change. We firmly believe in artistic freedom as defined by UNESCO as ‘the freedom to imagine, create and distribute diverse cultural expressions, free of governmental censorship, political interference or the pressure of non-state actors.’ Furthermore, we wholeheartedly believe that all artists, irrespective of the colour of their skin, religion, or nationality, must have ‘the rights of citizens to access artistic expressions and take part in cultural life’ – which represents one of the key ideals of democracy.’
We respect anyone’s decisions to pull out of open panel discussions or lectures, which have been held during our parallel event, the National Public Art Conference, as well as visitors who decide not to visit or support the festival. We also respectfully remind everyone that we live in times of increased division, inflamed opinions, and polarised politics. That’s why we believe that now is an opportune time to connect and engage in constructive, respectful conversations. We hope the festival will be a platform for this discourse and we are eager to learn and unlearn. That’s what this year’s theme of ‘humanity’ encapsulates.
The IPAF takes place from 23-27 February in the Cape Town City Centre. For more information, visit the IPAFEST.co.za.