Creative Activism Awards

Photo by Victor Dragonetti

The Creative Activism Awards (CAA) were created by director iara lee as a way of recognizing artists, musicians, poets, writers, designers, dancers, and other creators whose work is connected to human rights, the environment, economic and global justice, and cultural resistance.

In the summer of 2020, Cultures of Resistance Films announced a first round of CAA recipients, made up of people and organizations who have been featured in or have collaborated on our documentaries. The awards were designed to encourage recipients to maintain and expand their important work in pursuit of social justice and creative expression.

Later in the year, Cultures of Resistance Films announced that it would be giving out a second round of awards in 2021 and that applications would be open to the public. To apply, click here!

“We hope that the awards will provide critical help to artists and organizers struggling to continue their efforts to build solidarity and promote change in their communities,” says lee.

Previous CAA recipients have included muralists, dancers, cartoonists, photographers, rappers, cinematographers, plastics artists, poets, and designers. Past award winners live in countries ranging from Iran, Palestine, Pakistan, Western Sahara, and the United States to Malawi, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, and Bolivia.

Below is a list of CAA recipients in alphabetical order. Click on a recipient's name to learn more about their work. Click here to see videos featuring some of the CAA recipients. We will continue to update this list as future award recipients are named.

    Sibusiso Adontsi, also known as Sadon: Sadon, a rapper and spoken word artist from Lesotho, is using the award to buy educational equipment, such as a PA system, a projector, and a computer to set up a space for youth classes about mental liberation, poetic advocacy, and economic freedom.

    Miguel de Barros: de Barros is a Pan-African sociologist, investigator, and activist from Guinea Bissau. He is using the award to translate his book on environmental education, citizenship, and traditional cultures, to know to love, to love to protect - an experience of education for the environment and citizenship in Guinea-Bissau. He is also using the award for logistics and food support for artists who are making murals in Guinea Bissau honoring the heroes of independence through the project "Caminhos Urbanos."

    Berger Badere Bellegie: Bellegie is part of Okapi Team in Malawi. Founded in 2016 at Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp, Okapi Team is a group of young alumni of the camp who provide assistance to communities living in Dzaleka and its surrounding area. Okapi Team focuses on educating young women and men for a better future. Beyond giving them an opportunity to join education initiatives and start apprenticeships, Okapi provides them room to expand their talents. For example, the Okapi Dancing Crew performed at the Tumaini Festival in 2017, and was then invited to perform at big events in Malawi’s capital city, where it has become well known. Okapi Team is using the award to purchase a sound system.

    Children's Art Club: Children's Art Club is a group organized for children in Malawi's Dzaleka refugee camp, which houses about 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers—half of which are children—from countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The questions behind the club's founding were: Is a refugee here just to cry, to beg, and not be skilled? No. Why do we only assist on the weaknesses of refugees (giving food, medication, etc.) and forget about their strengths, their activities, and their talents? The club's aims are educating children about the arts; improving and promoting their talent; letting them share skills and knowledge; preparing them to become educators and entertainers for other people; sharpening their knowledge and skills as actresses and actors of tomorrow; changing their difficult behaviors toward the community and families; involving unaccompanied minors in community service; building collaborations between separated children, orphans, and unaccompanied children with other people; developing self-reliance in children through the gift of the arts; promoting public speaking in children; helping them become tools of change in the community through the performing arts; and strengthening them as voices of the voiceless. The Children's Art Club is using the award to purchase art supplies.

    Patrick Chimbewa: Chimbewa is a musician from Ntchisi, Malawi, who performs using an instrument he makes himself called the nsansi, or thumb piano. He makes the instruments by hand and teaches others how to play the nsansi and the drums, as well as how to do traditional Malawian dances, such as the "gwanyasa," with his band and dance troupe. He is using the award to make more instruments.

    Dripz: Dripz, a graphic designer and conservation artist in Lesotho, is using the award to expand his art studio's recycling initiative to show more people why recycling resources is the best way to make a living and care for the environment.

    Aimé Césaire Ilboudo: Ilboudo is a reclaimed plastic artist from Burkina Faso who was featured in BURKINABÈ RISING: the art of resistance in Burkina Faso. He is part of AR-ECO-DE TILG-RE, an association of young volunteers from different socio-professional and cultural backgrounds. AR-ECO-DE TILG-REorganizes a cultural festival in Ouagadougou that works towards cultural, social, and humanitarian integration and aims to create and arouse interest in the protection of the environment in urban areas. The festival includes street art, mural art, workshops with resident artists, canvas creation and exhibitions, a large street parade with puppeteers and masks, and music. Ilboudo is using the award to support AR-ECO-DE TILG-RE.

    Neo Kabi: Kabi, who works on campaigns for LGBTQI+ rights in Lesotho, is using the award to increase awareness of LGBTQI issues and address mental health concerns among the queer community.

    Seif Kousmate: Kousmate is a self-taught photographer who was born in Morocco and works in Mauritania. He specializes in social issues and has developed a visual vocabulary that stands between documentary photography and the poetry of fine art photography. He is using the award to support his photo essay titled "Haratin: Born to Serve," which features portraits of former slaves in Mauritania.

    Jafet Potenzo Lopes: Lopes is a naturalist and Timorese wildlife conservation and ocean photographer from the Com Timor Island. His work focuses on the terrestrial and oceans. He is using the award to undertake bird and dragonfly surveys in order to improve the knowledge of biodiversity, especially threatened bird species, in remote areas of Timor-Leste.

    Lynor Mahase and Kutlane Sehloho: Mahase and Sehloho are owners of Backyard@Lynors, an artist space in Masero, Lesotho. With the award, Mahase and Sehloho are sorting out running water, working on enhancing the kitchen, and renovating the yard at Backyard@Lynors. The award is also helping them acquire masks, sanitizer, and gloves.

    Humberto Mancilla: Mancilla is the director of Bolivia's PUKAÑAWI Center of Cultural Management, which houses the Human Rights Film Archives and organizes the International Festival of Human Rights Cinema. The archives aim to nurture the expression of cultural diversity through film and human rights education. The center provides visual education about human and Indigenous rights in Latin America to filmmakers and to the Bolivian public. PUKAÑAWI means "red eye" in the Quechua language and is an homage to the center's roots in supporting Indigenous cinema.

    Relebohile Mats’ela: Mats'ela lives in Lesotho and is using the award for a seed garden.

    Kaizer Matsumunyane: Matsumunyane is the owner of the creative space Cafe What? Lesotho in Maseru. He is using the award to renovate Cafe What?. This includes making the space more acoustic-friendly by purchasing sound acoustic panels and proper sound equipment for musical performances by local artists.

    Teboho Moekoa: Moekoa, the founder of Kemet Designs and Creatives in Lesotho, is using the award to support Kemet Designs, which specializes in the creation of genuine leather products, denim, and other suitable material for clothing and clothing accessories. Its products are a symbol of Afrikanism and ethnic consciousness, as well as uniqueness, style, and flair. Click here to see a video!

    Nthabiseng Mohanela (TeReo): TeReo, who created the “From Trash to Treasure” project and works with the Morija Arts Centre in Morija, Lesotho, is using the award to repair the center's car and purchase studio equipment to help with the organization's e-learning program. The award is also allowing the center to buy external hard drives and fix an old laptop, which helps maximize production and effectiveness while creating e-learning content. Additionally, the award is serving as compensation to partner artists who helped the organization produce a music video for the Lesotho Film Festival. Click here to see a video!

    About the award, Mohanela says: “Thank you for this encouragement and boost. Our biggest challenge is mobility. We currently have a car that is broken and needs a new battery, and this money will assist with that, as we all know public transport can be very risky during the pandemic.... It can also help with food and transportation for our collaborating artists that join us in the studio. We are adhering to Covid-19 precautions and this award means we will be able to procure sanitizer and masks for our collaborators during recording sessions.”

    Meshu Mokitimi: Mokitimi lives and works in Maseru, Lesotho. At 90 years old, he still spends each day in his studio dedicated to producing images that represent the culture of his country. He has been involved in politics in Lesotho and also travelled the world with his art, visiting Israel, India, Nepal, Italy, England, France, Nigeria, Brazil, the United States, and Ireland. In 1995, the National University awarded Mokitimi the Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contribution to Basotho Culture and in 2006, His Majesty King Letsie III appointed him to Commander of the Most Loyal Order of Ramatšeatsana "in recognition to his outstanding contribution to the promotion of arts and culture in Lesotho."

    Reekelitsoe Molapo: Molapo, an entrepreneur, social activist, and student in Lesotho, is using the award to pursue personal projects and to benefit Conservation Music Lesotho, an organization she co-founded. Through the catalytic power of music, Conservation Music Lesotho confronts environmental breakdown and humanitarian disaster in the developing world and beyond.

    Siphiwe Nzima-Ntsekhe: Nzima-Ntsekhe is an activist in Lesotho who uses her poetry and songs to stimulate the masses. She is using the award to help fellow artists with digital performances and marketing. Click here to see a video!

    OSLOOB: OSLOOB is a Palestinian rapper, producer, and beat-maker born in Lebanon who was included in the Cultures of Resistance feature documentary. He is also the founder of the band Katibeh 5, for which he has produced two albums: Ahla Fik Bil Mokhayamat (Welcome to the Refugee Camps) and Al Tareeq Wahad Marsoum (The Road Ahead is One and Known). He is using the award for a project with rappers and singers from Palestine and Lebanon. Click here to see a video!

    Mamolefe Petlane: Petlane, the director of Sesotho Media & Development in Lesotho, is using the award to support Sesotho Media & Development's annual event, Lesotho International Film 2020.

    Paul Rafoneke: Rafoneke is an artist from Lesotho who specializes in drawing.

    Khothatso Ranoosi and Sotho Sounds: Based in Lesotho, Ranoosi is using the award to repaid old instruments and buy fishing line and oils. The award is also helping Sotho Sounds acquire a better sound system and pay for transportation when they perform.

    Jawad Sharif: Sharif, the cinematographer on K2 and the Invisible Footmen, is an award-winning filmmaker based in Pakistan, known for his signature visual storytelling style. He has an intuitive talent for revealing spontaneous human moments and is among the rare filmmakers who are proficient in weaving compelling visuals and narratives in both fiction and non-fiction films. He was awarded a scholarship to contribute to an International Film Exchange Program at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Sharif is also an alumnus of the Swedish Institute and Institut Fur Auslandsbeziehunge, Germany. He is using the award to support his new film project, "Go To Hell."

    Keyvan Shovir: Shovir is an Iranian-American multidisciplinary artist and muralist born in Iran and currently based in California. He is one of the pioneers of Iranian street art in Tehran, focusing on and addressing social issues and political messages through Persian calligraphy and poetry. Through sculptural sound installations, murals, and paintings, he explores the poetic experience of the current political situation within narration and storytelling from the past and its juxtaposition with the present. All the narrations are rooted in his Iranian heritage through literature, history, Persian myth, language, and today’s pop culture. He is using the award to support his project "Messenger," which is a sculptural installation created from skateboard decks, laser cut acrylic sheets, and chain. This piece is telling a story of an era in the late 90's through 2009.

    Andy Singer: Based in the United States, Singer has drawn cartoons and illustrations for over twenty-five years. His work appears mostly in the alternative press but occasionally in more mainstream venues. He has published cartoons in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, The Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Adbusters, New Internationalist, Z Magazine, The Progressive,,,, and many other newspapers and websites. He is the author of four books and has contributed cartoons to hundreds of others. His first book, CARtoons (2001) has been translated into five languages. Over the years, the internet has driven many newspapers and magazines out of business, greatly reducing the market for cartoons. Today, Andy's work appears in La Décroissance (France), Neweekly (China), and a handful of websites and small weekly or monthly papers. He is using the award to support the creation of longer multi-page comics, including a four-page comic version of the Woody Gutherie song "Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd" and a multi-page comic using road-sign icons.

    Tumisang Taabe: Taabe is cyclist in Lesotho who trains children and adults to ride bikes. He is using the award to purchase new bikes, as well as parts needed to repair bikes.

    Rets'elisitsoe Takana: Takana is a farmer based in rural Lesotho.

    Moulud Yeslem: Yeslem, an artist and activist against landmines, is from Western Sahara and lives in Spain. He is using the award to support his KASSIHA-2025 project, which aims to make changes at both the level of de-mining and at the political level in Western Sahara. Through the project, he is manufacturing a prototype of a machine for de-mining in desert areas.


Teboho Moekoa

Nthabiseng Mohanela (TeReo)

Siphiwe Nzima-Ntsekhe