On February 8, PEN International will premiere the second episode of Creative Witnesses, a filmed event that brings together musicians and creative artists in support of writers who have been imprisoned, harassed or have lost their lives because of their work and commitment to freedom of expression. This new episode of Creative Witnesses will be released on PEN International’s YouTube Channel on Monday 8 February at 10am UK time. It will showcase new and original creative work by renown musicians and artists: Kurdish painter Zehra Doğan, Uyghur filmmaker and performer Mukaddas Mijit, Canadian/American poet Julia Balm and London-based musicians George Jones and Pearl Bloor.
Focusing on the Asia/Pacific region, the production will feature responses to three PEN International cases: Saw Win (Saw Wai) (Myanmar), poet and PEN’s member facing imprisonment for defaming the military; Perhat Tursun(People’s Republic of China), Uyghur author who was forcibly disappeared in Xinjiang in 2018; and Varavara Rao (India), poet and human rights activist detained without trial since 2018 on the grounds that he incited caste violence, allegations that he strongly denies. It will also honour the life and work of Chinese writer and Nobel Prize recipient Liu Xiaobo as part of the Liu Xiaobo Anniversary Campaign.
The event has been founded and organised by writer and activist Ege Dündar in collaboration with musician and writer Gabriel Moreno. Dündar is PEN International’s Youth Engagement Coordinator and Founder of İlkyaz Young Writers Network — a literary platform which promotes the work of writers aged under 35 with the support of Norwegian PEN, PEN Turkey and PEN International. He is also the son of leading Turkish journalist and former prisoner of conscience Can Dündar.
Introducing this new episode, Ege Dündar said: “With Creative Witnesses we want to establish ‘chains of solidarity’ in resistance to the 'chains of imprisonment' which hold many writers and artists captive. I hope this series can be a source of strength for artists at risk to keep resisting, establish awareness and supportive connections while inspiring other creatives to use the contagious courage embedded in their skills. After all, no matter where we may be, we are part of the same family of creative witnesses."
The first episode of Creative Witnesses was released in October 2020. Focusing on Europe and the Middle East and North Africa region, it featured the cases of Ibrahim Gökçek and İlhan Çomak from Turkey; Sanaa Seif from Egypt; Abdel Wahab Yousif from Sudan and Belarusian protestors in general. It also featured Adam Beattie and Fiona Beevan’s musical tribute to the poetry of Abdel Wahab Yousif, a Sudanese poet who drowned at sea while seeking refuge; Rosie Reed Gold’s video poem for imprisoned Egyptian film-maker Sanaa Seif; Ned Cartwright’s song honouring the resilience of Belarusian protestors; Ekin Bernay’s performance piece for İlhan Çomak, a Kurdish poet who has been jailed for over two decades; and Gabriel Moreno’s song for the Turkish band Grup Yorum.
The remaining third episode of the production will focus on Latin American cases. It will be premiered in spring 2021.
Creative Witnesses is part of a series of events planned throughout 2021 to mark PEN International’s Centenary. Founded in 1921 by English writer Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, PEN International has spent 100 years celebrating literature and protecting freedom of expression. You can stand up for persecuted writers by making a donation today.
Notes to editors:
Photographs of musicians taking part in Creative Witnesses and of the cases they represent, and an extended interview with Ege Dündar are available on request.
PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in London in 1921, PEN International – PEN’s Secretariat – connects an international community of writers. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. PEN International is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088.