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Doha Debates spotlights artists’ role in global fight for racial equality

Wednesday، 18 November 2020 11:54 PM

As artists around the world use their talent to support the global call for racial equality, the third episode of #DearWorldLive – hosted by Doha Debates, a production of Qatar Foundation – explored how creativity and artistic expression are powerful tools for change.
The episode featured a conversation between Brazilian award-winning filmmaker and illustrator Leandro Assis; Enas Satir, a Toronto-based Sudanese artist whose art revolves around issues of race and African identity; and Aya Adil Elbaz, a Sudanese writer and a student at Qatar Foundation’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, where she is completing her Master’s degree in Islamic finance. 
Host Nelufar Hedayat began the conversation with questions for Assis, who this year created a new comic series that criticises the disproportionate toll of the Covid-19 pandemic on poor and Black Brazilians. Assis’ series — called Confinada, meaning ‘confined’ — shows the starkly divergent realities that Brazil’s rich and poor face during the pandemic. 
Speaking from Brazil, Assis told #DearWorldLive: “I decided to make a comic strip to criticise the government and Jair Bolsonaro, the main leader of the far-right movement in Brazil. At first it was a humour comic, but then I realised I was missing something.
 “I wanted to talk about the kind of people who helped elect Bolsonaro, who are White, rich people from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and big cities. I wanted to talk about things White people do, but they don’t normally talk about it in public.
“I knew I needed to humanise Black people because that is what racists don’t do. They dehumanise Black people.” 
Satir, who has lived in Sudan, Bahrain, and now Canada, spoke about a similar theme in both artists’ work: the Black maid. “A few months ago, I felt the conversation was very narrow to the Black and White races, and no one was actually discussing other forms of racism,” she said.
According to the artist, this includes colourism — a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people who are usually members of the same race are treated differently based on the shades of their skin or features. 
Assis and Satir acknowledged the prevalence of colourism as a prominent form of racism in their respective communities. Assis explained: “When you look at Enas’ work, it is beautiful and unique — but when you pay attention you see that it is similar to what I know, because there is something common. Unfortunately, it’s racism.” 
The show also focused on the tokenisation of Black artists, described by Satir as “when people don’t show support for the Black artist because the artist is important,” but because they want to make it seem like they are concerned about representation. 
Even once the Black Lives Matter movement is no longer on the global agenda, Elbaz said that Satir and Assis’ art would remain vital and timeless contributions to the global fight against racial inequality, adding that: “Art in its essence is protest, it’s your soul speaking to the world.”

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