A special exhibition and sale of artwork in the East End of London next week will raise awareness and funds to alleviate the persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.
Since March, numerous reports and personal testimonies have highlighted the discrimination that LGBTI communities are facing in the Russian republic.
Next week’s art show will open on Tuesday 23 May at NSH Arts in Mile End. Money raised will go directly to the Russian LGBT Network.
It’s estimated that around 100 men have been detained in detainment camps in Chechnya, where they have been tortured to give up the names of other gay people, or warned to leave the country.
At least three are thought to have disappeared, while others are doing all they can to flee the region.
The Russian LGBT Network has been providing financial assistance to help men escape. Yesterday, news emerged that Lithuania had granted visas to two gay men from Chechnya who were trying to settle somewhere safe.
Chechyna authorities have denied that they are persecuting gay men, saying ‘there are none’ in the country.
‘I’m sure you’ve been as horrified as we were to read about what’s happening there, and whilst we can’t bring justice to the perpetrators or systemic change to the region, we can help get some of these people out of there and keep them alive and safe,’ said Ed Firth, one of the organizers of the show.
Firth says over 40 artists have donated pieces for the show, #OnePieceforChechnya. Works include paintings, prints, collage, ceramics and sculpture, as well as zines, calendars and other smaller pieces, from a diverse range of – mainly queer – artists.
‘There will be a second wave of art sales online, with people auctioning one piece via social media using the hashtag #OnePieceForChechnya, and donating proceeds directly.’
Artists confirmed to have donated work include Peter Jones, Sina Sparrow, William Martin, Fred Andersson, Boldtron and Daniela Attard.
‘I was horrified that this was happening in a supposedly civilised country’
Peter Jones told GSN that he often donated artwork for charitable causes, but that this was different.
‘The urgency for support that is needed right now in Chechnya is unlike anything I can remember. I don’t think it is inappropriate to compare this need to act now even to the aftermath of a natural disaster.
‘The utterly shocking situation in Chechnya right now is a genuine genocide and practical help is needed right now. I hope my modest contribution of a painting to next weeks fundraiser at NSH Arts will help in some practical way to rescue and support our LGBT friends and cousins in Chechnya.’
‘When I heard about the prison camps for gay men in Chechnya I was horrified that this was happening in a supposedly civilised country in this day and age even though I know that sadly this does still happen,’ said Sina Sparrow.
‘My background is Iranian-British. I know this kind of torture and even murder does still happen to gay men in other countries. As a visual artist I wanted to do what I could to draw attention to those queer people living under oppressive regimes: who do not have the privilege and the good fortune that we do.’
William Martin told GSN, ‘Coming from Cape Town, I’ve seen structural violence first hand. I came of age after Apartheid, so my sexuality was never illegal. That wasn’t the case for my older friends. I saw how the damage of that experience stayed with them into later life.
‘I’m donating to One Piece for Chechnyan to fight back against the lethal use of our community as a nationalist scapegoat.’