Protest art

Lapiro 2Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize winner, released in Cameroon.

The winner of the 2009 Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize, Lapiro de Mbanga, was released from prison in Cameroon after three years imprisonment under harsh conditions. Early in 2008, angered by high living costs and a constitutional change that would allow the president to stay in power indefinitely, people in Cameroon took to the streets. Amid nationwide strikes and mass demonstrations, popular singer Lapiro de Mbanga, who had demanded that the president resign, was arrested and charged with inciting youth unrest. In September 2008, he was jailed for three years.

Commenting on his release, Freedom to Create spokesperson Priti Devi said, “We are delighted that Lapiro de Mbanga has finally been released from imprisonment. We hope that he will continue to use his talent to inspire others to challenge and change the world through creativity and the arts, so that we all may flourish.”

“In the developed world, we take our creative freedom for granted. But in many societies, political repression, intolerance, ignorance and religious extremism inhibit creative expression, especially for women. Artists play an important role in breaking these barriers and championing creative, economic and political freedom.” Priti Devi added.

For nearly 20 years, Lapiro has used the power of popular music to campaign for social reform. Freemuse, the campaigning forum which nominated Lapiro for the 2009 Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize, described Lapiro as someone with rustic wisdom who provided a cultural prism through which Cameroonians interpreted and commented on political behaviour. “His songs constitute a cultural megaphone by which the disenfranchised and politically endangered can vicariously exercise free speech.” they stated.

Lapiro de Mbanga was imprisoned for his song ‘Constipated Constitution’, which was critical of President Biya of Cameroon. Lapiro was awarded the Freedom to Create Imprisoned Artist Prize in 2009 for his courage and creativity, and only received his trophy earlier this year, when campaigners for his release visited him in on Music Freedom Day on 3 March 2011. Lapiro’s case was followed internationally and last year, a petition was made to the UN for arbitrary detention.

The Freedom to Create Prize

Each year, Freedom to Create presents the ‘Freedom to Create Prize’, a US$100,000 Prize that is open to artists in all creative fields.

The Freedom to Create Prize celebrates the courage and creativity of artists who use their talents to build social foundations and inspire the human spirit. Artists serve as champions of the freedom of expression essential for healthy societies and vibrant economies. They play an important role as positive change agents, expressing the aspirations and angst of ordinary people.

Nominations for the 2011 Freedom to Create Prize are now open and can be accesses through the Freedom to Create website:

Cairo Hosts 2010 Freedom to Create Prize Featuring Hakim


Freedom to Create, a renowned international organisation that was  established in 2006 to harness the power of art and culture to build more creative and prosperous societies, has selected Cairo to host the annual awards ceremony to announce the winners of the

2010 Freedom to Create Prize. The award ceremony will include a vibrant music festival to be held

at the Salah El Din Citadel on 26 November. 

Announcing the event in Cairo, Priti Devi, Freedom to Create spokesperson said, “Prosperity today is generally thought of in economic and material terms. However, we have long believed that human fulfilment comes from a more holistic definition of prosperity, one that encompasses ‘human flourishing’. We believe A Creative Society is a Prosperous Society.”

Explaining the choice of Cairo to host the 2010 Freedom to Create Prize event, Ms. Devi said, “We hold our award celebrations in places where there is an established history of the transformational impact of arts and culture.” She added, “The cities of Egypt including the capital Cairo, have been renowned for centuries as centres of art, learning, culture and commerce and therefore, a fitting choice as the place to celebrate the 2010 Freedom to Create Prize awards.”

The Prize is open to artists from all creative fields. The Prize money of US$125,000 is awarded across three prize categories, Main, Youth and Imprisoned Artist. This year’s prize attracted more than 1700 entries from over 100 countries that included: performance theatre in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, female rappers in Iran, Hip Hop artists from the Inuit communities in Northern Canada, young filmmakers from Bolivia, rock bands from Afghanistan and six entrants from Egypt.

The hosts for the Prize event on 26 November, are leading Egyptian actor Amr Waked, who is also the UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador in the Middle East and North Africa region, and Ms. Femi Oke, former CNN broadcaster and journalist. The performers at the Prize event include Egyptian superstar HAKIM, the first Arab singer to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, Hip Hop artists Arabian Knightz, Namibian artist Eric Sell, and folk artist Donia Massoud. Senior public figures and civil society organisations working to encourage creative expression in Egypt will also be present at the ceremony.

To celebrate the creative vitality of women, Freedom to Create is hosting the Freedom to Create Forum,

a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for women in building creative and prosperous lives, families and communities. The Forum will be held at The American University in Cairo on

24 November. Former First Lady of Egypt, Mrs. Jehan Sadat will be the opening speaker and will be joined on the panel by five other distinguished international female role models.

The Cairo Opera House will host the 2010 Freedom to Create Prize Exhibition, showcasing works by highly commended entrants for this year’s Freedom to Create Prize.  The exhibition will be opened by the Honorable Minister of Culture, Mr. Farouk Hosny, accompanied by Dr. Abdel Moneim Kamel, Chairman of the Opera House, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and

Dr. Ahmed Megahid, Head of the General Authorities of Cultural Palaces. The exhibition will remain open until 11 December 2010 before embarking on a global tour.