Power of the Arts: When Artists Use Their Work for Change

Jump to Guests
Aretha Brown
Rae Wiltshire
Aranya Johar
Date & Time
12:00pm, 10 May 2022 - 1:30pm, 10 May 2022
About the event

Artivism involves using creative and artistic means to bring about social or political change. Although the term itself has only gained popularity in the last two decades, artivism embraces the deeper social purpose found in artwork throughout the centuries. Modern artivist campaigns are expressed through a variety of mediums, including film, photography, visual art, literature and poetry.

Studies show that artivism is more effective than traditional activism. Audiences are more receptive to the messaging behind artivist campaigns which are oftentimes more memorable.

Artivism offers a unique platform for marginalised people to use their voices and drive change. How can we harness it in the Commonwealth, where free expression appears to be in retreat?

This Critical Conversation will bring together young creative activists from across the Commonwealth. They will share their experiences of combining art and activism to answer vital questions:

  • Can art influence the way we think and act as individuals, and as a society?
  • How can artists work with civil society to accelerate social change?
  • How can the Commonwealth provide support or create an enabling environment for more creative activism?

Illustration credit: Aretha Brown

This event has now taken place. You can watch the recording here:

PilAto Moderator
Aretha Brown Panellist
Rae Wiltshire Panellist
Aranya Johar Panellist

Fumba Chama, known professionally as Pilato, is a recording artist and social activist. The name Pilato is an acronym for, People in Lyrical Arena Taking Over. Born and raised in the Copperbelt province, Chama commenced his career as a poet until 2010 when he launched into music. With 4 studio albums, Pilato continues to inspire social and political debate and conversations. As an activist, he has been involved in the championing for a more equal and fair society. Referred to as the “voice of the voiceless”, Chama remained a relevant voice in the dispensation of Democracy in Zambia. With his intelligent lyrics, he has managed to affix art and music in Zambian politics.

In 2020, he founded People’s Action for Accountability and Good Governance (PAAGZ), a local CSO promoting good governance and accountability, where he currently serves as the Executive Director. Fumba Chama has led their local and international advocacy to fight inequality. As a fellow on inequality with Open Society Foundations, Fumba worked closely with community organizations, activists and international NGOs in addressing local inequality issues from a global perspective and in linking the grassroots groups of women and youths with the national leadership in strengthening the relationship between the ordinary people and the their civic leaders. As an artist, Fumba was invited to join Oxfam international at the Davos summit to speak on the necessity of grassroots mobilisation in addressing inequality globally. Pilato has been arrested a number of times for his relentless fight against economic and social exclusion due to corruption and misuse of public power. His belief in equality and fairness is evident in his argument both in his music and in his other public engagements.

Aretha Brown

Aretha made headlines following her speeches at both the 2017 and 2018 Invasion Day Protests in Melbourne. The then Year 11 student, addressed an estimated 50,000 protesters in Melbourne on Invasion Day, calling for the date of the national holiday to be changed and fighting to make Indigenous Australian history education mainstream. Her delivery and ideas led her to be elected as Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, the youngest ever person — and the first woman — to hold this position. 

Now a practising artist, comedian and screenwriter living in London, Aretha takes heavy influence from her time growing up in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs. As well as her own identity as a queer, Blak, young person living in the confinements of an urban colony.

In 2021 Aretha wrote her first subversive comedy short titled “HOW TO BE COOL IN MELBOURNE“. Parodying the ideas, inner workings and social politics of Melbourne’s underground art and cultural spaces. Aretha has also been a regular appearance at comedy clubs, performing her signature political and satirical stand up throughout Melbourne since 2020.

Rae Wiltshire

Rae Wiltshire is a Guyanese filmmaker, playwright, screenwriter, short story writer, and journalist. His work explores suicide, war, queerness, existenalism, rape, domestic violence and abortion rights. He also explores the effects of a conservative society that often tries to limit freedom of expression, in nation that is still trying to recover from its colonial past.

Rae has received widespread recognition for his work. His plays received awards at the National Drama Festival in 2013 and 2015. In 2018 the Guyana Annual published a play and short story he had written. His media work includes covering a landmark cross-dressing case that made it legal for transwomen to express their gender identity after his coverage of transgender women gained the attention of the University of the West Indies’ Rights Advocacy Program. He was also awarded a Caribbean Voices grant by the Foundation for his short film ‘Eating Papaw on the Seashore’.

Aranya Johar

Aranya Johar is a 22 year old poet that uses spoken word to start conversations. She is the youngest Indian to be featured on BBC’s Top 100 Influencial Women. Aranya is also the youngest and only Indian member of the G7’s Gender Equality Advisory Council. She has worked on dismantling gender inequality along side personalities such as Emma Watson, Bill and Melinda Gates, Malala Yousafzai,  and more! Her piece ‘Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender’ has over a billion views and has been translated into different languages. Buy her a plate of pani puri and she’ll love you forever.

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