Creative Activism Awards

Photo by Victor Dragonetti

In July 2020, director iara lee created the Creative Activism Awards to give back to people and organizations who have been featured in or have collaborated on documentaries by Cultures of Resistance Films. The awards encourage recipients to maintain and expand their important work in pursuit of social justice and creative expression.

“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.

The first dozen recipients of the award were from Lesotho and featured in FROM TRASH TO TREASURE: turning negatives into positives. Additional recipients based in countries including Malawi, Palestine, and Pakistan have since been announced. We will continue to update this list as future award recipients are named.

The following award recipient(s) are from Iran:

  • 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.

The following award recipient(s) are from Burkina Faso:

  • Aimé Césaire Ilboudo: Ilboudo is a reclaimed plastic artist 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.

The following award recipient(s) are from the United States:

  • Andy Singer: 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.

The following award recipient(s) are from Mauritania:

  • Seif Kousmate: Kousmate is a self-taught photographer who was born in Morocco and specializes in social issues. He 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.

The following award recipient(s) are from Bolivia:

  • Humberto Mancilla: Mancilla is the director of the PUKAÑAWI Center of Cultural Management, which is home to the Human Rights Film Archives and organizes the International Festival of Human Rights Cinema in Bolivia. The archives are designed 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. The name PUKAÑAWI, which means "red eye" in the Quechua language, is an homage to the center's roots in supporting Indigenous cinema.

The following award recipient(s) are from Western Sahara:

  • 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.

The following award recipient(s) are from Pakistan:

  • 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."

The following award recipient(s) are from Palestine:

  • 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.

The following award recipients are from Malawi:

  • Children's Art Club: Children's Art Club, a group organized for children in the Dzaleka refugee camp, is using the award to purchase art supplies.
  • Berger Badere Bellegie: Bellegie is part of Okapi Team. 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.
  • 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.

The following award recipients are from Lesotho:

  • Teboho Moekoa: Moekoa, the founder of Kemet Designs and Creatives, 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.

  • Tumisang Taabe: Taabe is cyclist 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.

  • 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.

    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.”

  • Dripz: Dripz, a graphic designer and conservation artist, 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.
  • Meshu Mokitimi: Mokitimi lives and works in Maseru, the capital of 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."
  • 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.
  • Reekelitsoe Molapo: Molapo, an entrepreneur, social activist, and student, is using the award to pursue personal projects and to benefit Conservation Music Lesotho, an organization she co-founded.
  • Khothatso Ranoosi and Sotho Sounds: 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.
  • Mamolefe Petlane: Petlane, the director of Sesotho Media & Development, is using the award to support Sesotho Media & Development's annual event, Lesotho International Film 2020.
  • Relebohile Mats’ela: Matsela is using the award for a seed garden.
  • Neo Kabi: Kabi, who works on campaigns for LGBTQI+ rights, is using the award to increase awareness of LGBTQI issues and address mental health concerns among the queer community.
  • Lynor Mahase and Kutlane Sehloho: Mahase and Sehloho are owners of Backyard@Lynors, an artist space in Masero. 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.

  • Rets'elisitsoe Takana: Takana is a farmer.
  • Paul Rafoneke: Rafoneke is an artist who specializes in drawing.
  • Kaizer Matsumunyane: Matsumunyane, the owner of the creative space Cafe What? Lesotho, is using the award to renovate the space and make it more acoustic-friendly by purchasing sound acoustic panels and proper sound equipment for performances.

  • Siphiwe Nzima-Ntsekhe: Siphiwe Nzima-Ntsekhe, an activist who uses her poetry and songs to stimulate the masses, is using the award to help fellow artists with digital performances and marketing.