Freedom to Create Prize

Freedom to Create Prize
Freedom to Create
Official website

Freedom to Create was established by businessman Richard F. Chandler in 2006 to foster prosperity in the developing world by investing in the creative foundations of society. The Freedom to Create Prize was introduced in 2008 to support and recognise artists who strive for social change in places where there is no Freedom to Create. The Freedom to Create Forum was introduced in 2010 as a platform for women across the globe to identify initiatives that can unleash the untapped creative potential of millions of women who have been denied an opportunity to participate and contribute towards their own prosperity.

Freedom to Create abides by the philosophy that the arts have an innovative and unique ability to improve lives and transform communities. According to their website, they have made over 240 grants in over 80 countries, touching over 12 million lives.



Richard F. Chandler is a New Zealand born businessman worth $3.1bn in March 2010, according to Forbes. He was formerly CEO of the Sovereign group of companies, in partnership with his brother, Christopher Chandler. From 1986 to 2006, Sovereign invested in companies and governments in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, and in industries including telecommunications, electric utilities, steel, oil and gas, banking and oil refining.[1]

The brothers split their assets in 2007 with Richard F. Chandler creating Orient Global and Christopher Chandler starting Legatum Capital.[2] Richard Chandler Corporation became the new name of Orient Global in April 2010. The website says its mission is “To Build Prosperity for Tomorrow's World” through it's two divisions: Capital and Creative World.[3]

The website further states: "Capital, our financial investment group, is a value-oriented investor focused on emerging markets and economies in transition. Creative World, our social investment group, focuses on liberating and empowering human capital and creativity, especially in developing countries. We build education systems, deliver affordable healthcare and promote women’s empowerment and creative expression."[4]

In launching the Freedom to Create Prize, Richard Chandler said: "This Prize celebrates not only the power of art to change lives, but also the bravery of artists who use their work to fight oppression and injustice and create a brighter future for all. The entrants are global ambassadors for the power of creativity in building peaceful and prosperous societies.”

Freedom to Create Prize

The Freedom to Create Prize is an international award which celebrates the power of art to promote social justice and inspire the human spirit. Established in 2008, the Prize is open to artists in all creative fields. Each year, US$125,000 in prize money is awarded across three categories: Main, Youth and Imprisoned Artist.

Prize categories

There are three Prize categories which share the US$125,000 Prize fund.

Main Prize

This category is open to artists or groups whose participants are over the age of 18 and has a total prize pool of US$75,000. The first place winner will receive US$ 50,000 which will be shared with an organisation nominated by the winning entrant to further the cause the artwork has highlighted. The second place prize winner will receive US$ 15,000. The third place prize winner will receive US$ 10,000.

Youth Prize

This prize is open to artists or groups whose participants are under the age of 18, or organisations whose primary work uses art to involve and impact youths. The US$ 25,000 prize will be divided into two components. The winner will receive US$ 10,000 and the remaining US$ 15,000 will be awarded to an organisation nominated by the winning entrant to further the cause that the artwork has highlighted.

Imprisoned Artist Prize

This prize focuses on artists who are imprisoned as a result of their art and its role in highlighting injustice. It differs slightly from the other categories, in that less emphasis is placed on the artist’s work and more on the personal risks incurred by them, the message conveyed through their work and its impact. A single prize of US$25,000 is directed towards securing the artist’s release, advocating on behalf of them and their cause and offering support to their family.

Entry Process

All artists around the world, from any creative field are invited to participate. Nominations by an advocate, or by the artist themselves, is done online via the official website. Artwork is assessed on its ability to accomplish one or all of the following: Promote social justice, build societal foundations, and inspire the human spirit. While the quality of the artwork entered is considered, it is not a defining criteria. According to the website, the judges give more weight to the impact of the art in achieving the Prize's mission.[5]

2010 Freedom to Create Prize

Entries for the 2010 Freedom to Create Prize closed on 15 August 2010. In total, over 1,700 artists from 127 countries participated. Winners will be announced in a ceremony at the Salah El Din Citadel in Cairo, Egypt on 26 November 2010.

Judging Panel

This year's judging panel comprised 13 individuals from a broad range of expertise.[6] They are: Egypt's former first lady and human rights campaigner Mrs Jehan Sedat; Pakistani poet, journalist and social activist, Fatima Bhutto; prominent theorist on Critical Race theory and professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw; celebrated street artist D*Face; non-executive director at the UK Financial Services Authority, Professor Dame Sandra Dawson OBE; 2009 Freedom to Create Prize winner and acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf; award winning filmmaker and producer Mira Nair; journalist and author Mariane Pearl; Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University, Professor Tariq Ramadan; leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC; authority on the development of creativity, innovation and human resources, Sir Ken Robinson; former diplomat and lecturer on cultural diplomacy, Professor Cynthia P. Schneider; and Croatian born artist Ana Tzarev.


2010 Freedom to Create Prize panelist and Egyptian former first lady, Mrs. Jehan Sadat, said: "The artists who have been selected as finalists in this year's Freedom to Create competition know full well the price they are paying to express their ideas, hopes, and dreams for their people and their nations. They have endured harsh criticisms, and in some cases, have placed themselves in grave danger. As a result, they have done more than expose the ills plaguing their societies. They have provided solutions and alternatives, and by so doing, they are trying to change the world. Each exemplifies the power of art, music, and the written word."

2010 Finalists[7]

Main Prize Category
  • Al-Bugaa Theatre Troupe

A Sudanese theatre group operating in the country’s conflict zones. Based out of Khartoum, Nuba Mountain and Dafur, Al-Bugaa’s plays carry a message of peace and reconciliation to militia groups and refugees in camps. The troupe is made up of former child soldiers, victims and aggressors.

  • Jean Bernard Bayard

This young Haitian filmmaker and student of Cine Institute retrieved his camera moments after the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti and set about chronicling the chaos and destruction. He aimed to record the resilience, hope and spirit of the people of Haiti despite the devastating destruction around them.

  • Kabul Dreams

Pioneers in Afghanistan's fledging rock scene, Kabul Dreams is made of a trio of former Afghan refugees who fled the Taliban regime. They state by playing music in a country where people are still fearful of celebrating the arts, they are inspiring communities and providing young people with a sense of hope for the freedom to express themselves without fear.

  • K-Mu Théâtre

Basal'ya Bazoba is a musical theatre which uses rap and drama to address the persecution of child witches in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Playing to over 100,000 people, this troupe of artists have encouraged open discussions on the social taboos that surround sorcery and address the role of the churches in the systematic accusation, abuse and abandonment of children. Some of the troupe members are individuals who as children, had been persecuted and suffered because they had been accused of being witches.

Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko used his exhibit at the Bulawayo National Gallery to publicise the atrocities of the Gukurahundi massacre, a tropic which is still highly sensitive despite occurring over three decades ago. When his installation was unveiled, authorities arrested him for undermining the President's authority and the gallery was ordered to remove the exhibit until the trial is resolved.

  • Salome

Salome is one of Iran's few female rappers. In Iran female singers are heavily restricted and modern music genres are heavily censored. Through her lyrics, she addresses social injustice, war, the marginalisation of women and encourages people to respect human rights.

  • Lynsey Addario

This American photographer has captured the increasing trend of self-immolation amongst Afghan women. Self-immolation is where many young women commit suicide with boiling water and oil. Through her photographs, Lynsey hopes to raise awareness of the pain, suffering and oppression of many young women in Afghanistan.

  • Wendy Champagne

This Australian-Canadian filmmaker followed a former sex-trafficked Nepalese teenager to form the basis of her documentary Bas! Beyond the Red Light. Wendy spent four years capturing the resilience of the young women who have fought against the sex-trafficking industry between Nepal and India.

Youth Prize Category
  • Ashtar Theatre

This global youth project was initiated in the Gaza Strip by acctress Iman Aoun who wanted the world to hear the stories of despair coming from children living in Gaza. Through art therapy workshops, 30 children aged 14 to 18 contributed their personal stories to 'The Gaza Monologues'. On October 17 2010, they will recite the 'Gaza Monologues' after which, 30 partnering youth-groups from around the world will follow the time zone reciting their stories until the chain returns to Palestine. The production aims to spread awareness of the impacts of continuous conflict on young children.

  • Blue Print for Life

In a bid to redress alarming suicide rates and instances of drug and alcohol abuse amongst youths living on the edge of the Arctic Circle in Canada, social worker Steve Leafloor and his crew of 25 Hip Hop dancers hold Hip Hop outreach programmes. This initiative offers hope and connects these children to their culture and elders.

  • Fulanitos

This group of indigenous Bolivian children from El Alto have acted, directed and produced their own soap opera, En Busca de la Vida (Looking for Life) to show their reality to the rest of their countrymen. The children became frustrated by Latin soap operas which only depicted the lives of the elite and wealthy without focusing on the poor. The storylines inspire dignity for people who have been economically and socially marginalized in Bolivia.

  • Lovetta Conto

Lovetta Conto is a Liberian teenager who was forced to flee her country and live in a refugee camp. Reflecting on this experience, she has fashioned a line of life-affirming jewellery to raise awareness of the conflict and raise funds to help educate and sustain other children. Lovetta recovered spent bullets, melted down the shells and cast them into a leaf pendant on which she inscribed one word: LIFE. Proceeds from the sale of her jewellery go towards the rescue home where she still resides.

  • United ACT

The children belonging to the United ACT theatre group are Burmese refugees living on the Thai-Burmese border where human traffickers and smuggling brokers target the vulnerable and impoverished population. To counteract the illicit business and protect their peers, this group of youths formed a theatre group, basing their scripts on real-life instances of trafficking and abuse. United ACT has performed before more than 10,000 refugees along the border.

Imprisoned Artist Prize Category
  • Aron Atabek

Aron Atabek is a prominent veteran dissident, poet and creative writer in Kazhakstan. He was jailed for 18 years for orchestrating a mass disorder protesting the demolition of a shanty-town, a charge he vehemently denies. He turned down an offer of pardon for an admission of guilt. ‘Nazarbayev’s Regime and Revolution’ is one of Atabek's collection of prose and poetry that has been published online while he has been in prison. It is highly critical of President Nazarbayev and his policies, and laments the status of democracy in the former Soviet nation.

  • Mustapha Abdul Dayem

'I Want a Dawn!' is Mustapha's first collection of short stories and writings, published during his three-year imprisonment on charges of offending the Moroccan flag. A secondary school supervisor by profession, Mustapha's writing has been largely banned in Western Saharan territory since 2005, following his open support of the right of Saharawis to demonstrate and oppose the Moroccan occupation. 50,000 copies of 'I Want a Dawn!' were published by the Ministry of Culture of the Saharawi government-in-exile, and sold to refugees in various camps. Mustapha remains in prison and is a popular figure in civil society. His short stories are often read in public at cultural events.

  • Tragyal

Tibetan author Tragyal was formerly regarded as an "official intellectual" in Tibet; someone who wrote and spoke in support of the Chinese government and its policies. But moved by the sight of monks marching in the streets during the 2008 protests in Lhasa, he wrote his book, 'The Line between Heaven and Earth', which called for a peaceful resistance against Beijing's heavy-handed style of governance. Its initial print run of 1,000 copies were quickly distributed underground and countless pirated versions have since been sold and read abroad. He is in jail without being charged or having

2009 Freedom to Create Prize

The shortlisted artists for the 2009 Freedom to Create Prize were announced on 26 October 2009. In total, there were 1,015 artists from more than 100 countries.

Judging Panel

The 2009 Freedom to Create Prize was judged by a panel of high-profile artists, opinion formers, and human rights experts. They were: leading international human rights lawyer and jurist on the UN’s Internal Justice Council Geoffrey Robertson QC; composer and founder of West-Eastern Divan Orchestra Daniel Barenboim; co-founder, along with Koffi Annan, of global diplomatic group, The Global Elders, and founder of Indian women and micro-finance movements Dr Ela Bhatt; BBC arts correspondent Razia Iqbal; Time Out founder and chair of Human Rights Watch Tony Elliott; award-winning Anglo-Indian artist Sacha Jafri; New York-based arts lawyer Peter Stern; artist Ana Tzarev; and Zimbabwean playwright Cont Mhlanga,[8] winner of the inaugural Freedom to Create Prize in 2008.

Main Prize Winners

First Prize

  • Celebrated Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf has dedicated his craft to highlighting social justice issues both in his native Iran and in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan. He has also established a film school to foster a new generation of Iranian filmmakers and has established NGOs in Afghanistan.

Second Prize

  • Burmese refugee women's group, The Kumjing Storytellers, use giant papier-mâché dolls in an installation piece designed to represent their stories of ethnic persecution in Burma and the plight of migrants and refugees from around the world.

Third Prize

  • Afghan female artist Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai uses video performance, installation art and photography to tackle the subjugation and violent persecution of women in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

Other Finalists

  • Former war photographer Karim Ben Khelifa draws on his experience and skill to create images which redefine and humanize the current conflict between Palestine and Israel.
  • Born in a refugee camp in Western Sahara, Aziza Brahim is a musician whose songs have been outlawed in Morocco for championing the human rights of the Saharawi refugees in one of the world’s least-understood conflicts.

Youth Prize Winner

  • Poimboi Veeyah Koindu (The Orphan Boys of Koindu), is a performance group made up of former child soldiers from Sierra Leone’s civil war. They use the power of dance and music not only to heal themselves, but to seek forgiveness and acceptance from their communities. After winning the prize in 2009, the group members used the prize funds to develop a sustainable and useful project for their local community - the PVK reconciliation library - a free resource that will benefit all local schoolchildren through the provision of school books and a safe and well-lit place to study. David Alan Harris,[9] the counselor and dance/movement therapist who founded PVK, wrote an article about the youths' journey from social exclusion to redemption. His article was published by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers [10]

Other Finalists

  • The AOS Angels Performance Troupe are a group of HIV-infected children and AIDS orphans living in China who have used painting to express the isolation they experience every day.
  • Dance group Genesis:Sarajevo is a group of nine girls from Bosniak and Croat backgrounds living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Using the city of Sarajevo as their stage, the girls perform against the backdrop of culturally relevant sites, such as a Catholic church or Islamic fountain, to heal their fractured communities and express their hope for a peaceful future.
  • Super Buddies Club in Swaziland has nominated 15 of their group who during their school holidays, wrote and performed a play empowering child victims of sexual abuse to speak out and seek help. Sexual abuse is one of the drivers of the spread of HIV in a country where 43% of the population lives with the disease.
  • The Zugdidi Shalva Dadiani State Drama Theatre in Georgia, has brought together the region’s refugee children to perform on the Abkhazian-Georgian border in the neutral zone on Enguri Bridge in a powerful work called Peace Podium.

Imprisoned Artist Prize Winner

  • In September, Cameroonian singer Lapiro de Mbanga[11] was jailed for three years after his song Constitution Constipeé became a rallying anthem for nation-wide protests over recent constitutional amendments.[12]

Other Finalists

  • On 21 June, Iranian filmmaker, playwright and journalist Maziar Bahari was arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the government following the disputed presidential elections. He was released on bail on 17 October after pressure from international human rights and media groups.[13]
  • Nationally celebrated Burmese poet and installation artist Saw Wei was jailed for two years in November 2008 for publishing a love poem which contained a code criticizing the leader of the Junta.[14]

2008 Freedom to Create Prize

Results and judging panel

The inaugural Freedom to Create Prize attracted more than 900 entries from 86 countries. The 2008 award was judged by a panel of artists, commentators and human rights experts including Andrew Dickson, Htein Lin, Carlos Reyes-Manzo and Ana Tzarev.

The winner of the 2008 Prize was Cont Mhlanga, a controversial Zimbabwean playwright who has risked his life challenging the Mugabe dictatorship for more than 25 years. His winning submission was a politically charged satire called 'The Good President' that presents a fictionalised account of a ruthless dictator, but closely mirrors recent events in Zimbabwe. In second place was the Belarus Free Theatre's "Campaign Stop Violence", a four-play production that confronts the truth about government by standing up to censorship and repression. Deeyah, a Pakistani-Norwegian singer and human rights activist came in third.

The 2008 The Youth Prize was awarded to City of Rhyme, a 14-strong Hip Hop collective from the Brazilian favelas. The Imprisoned Artist Prize winner was Burmese satirist Zarganar, who is serving a 35 years for mocking the Burmese government in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.


Presenting an award at the 2008 ceremony in London, renowned playwright Sir Tom Stoppard said, "My participation in the Freedom to Create Prize was my first contact with this truly admirable enterprise. It is important that abuses of human rights are attacked from all sides of every free society."

Freedom to Create Prize Exhibition

Freedom to Create holds a travelling exhibition of notable entries from the Freedom to Create Prize. Selected entries from the 2010 Freedom to Create Prize will be unveiled at the Cairo Opera House from 25 November, 2010.[15]

1 - 22 June 2010: 2009 Prize Exhibition in Kabul, Afghanistan [16]

27 April - 2 May 2010: 2009 Prize Exhibition in Harare, Zimbabwe [17]

19 February - 20 March 2010: 2009 Prize Exhibition in New York, USA [18]

25 November 2009: 2009 Prize Exhibition in London, UK [19]

Freedom to Create Forum

In 2010, Freedom to Create launched a new initiative, the Freedom to Create Forum. This is the first in a series of panel discussions which aims to debate the challenges and opportunities for women in building creative and prosperous lives, families and communities.[20]

The Forum will be held on 24 November, 2010, at the Moataz Al Alfi Hall, The American University in Cairo. The panel will feature guest of honour and 2010 Prize judge Jehan Sedat, moderator Femi Oke and be accompanied by Mariane Pearl, Dalia Ziada, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw and Dianne Laurance.


Freedom to Create Prize 2009 Winner’s Announcement:

Iranian director, opposition campaigner wins award 'Reuters'

Iran should face smarter sanctions, says Mohsen Makhmalbaf 'Guardian'

Iranian filmmaker collects prize 'Channel4'

Iranian filmmaker collects prize 'Telegraph'

Iranian Director, Opposition Campaigner Wins Award 'New York Times'

Mohsen Makhmalbaf 'Al Jazeera'

Makhmalbaf: back democracy in Iran 'Guardian'

Freedom to Create Prize 2009 Shortlisted Artists' Announcement:

Iran director, Saharan singer up for prize 'Saudi Gazette'

Freedom to Create Prize Announces Finalists 'Newstin'

Freedom to Create Prize Announces Finalists 'USA Today'

Iranian Director amongst the nominees for Freedom to Create Prize 'Yahoo Entretenimiento'

Freedom to Create Prize Announces Finalists ''

Iranian Director amongst the nominees for Freedom to Create Prize 'International Business Times'

Iranian Director, Journalist Up for Social Justice Prize 'Washington TV'

Iran director, Saharan singer up for prize 'Yahoo - India News'

Iran director, Saharan singer up for prize ''

Selected coverage from 2009 Freedom to Create Launch:

Cont Mhlanga talks about writing against the backdrop of Robert Mugabe's regime 'Guardian'

Letter from Africa, 'When you tell a joke in the street, that is political' 'BBC'

Selected coverage from Freedom to Create Prize 2008:

Taking on Mugabe 'BBC'

Arts & Free Expression in Zimbabwe 'Guardian'

Critic of Mugabe WIns Arts Prize 'New York Times'



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