Galway International Summer School on the Arts and Human Rights

Professor Michael O’Flaherty is Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.
Apr 28 2015 Posted: 16:05 IST

Thought leaders from the seemingly disparate worlds of human rights and the arts will come together for the Galway International Summer School on the Arts and Human Rights from 9-11 July. This landmark event, a world-first, is hosted by NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights, and will take place in the days immediately before the Galway International Arts Festival.

Bringing together arts and human rights practitioners and others interested in the topics, events will take the form of panel discussions, exhibitions and performances. There will also be three parallel workshops on the topics of literature and human rights, the visual arts and human rights, and music and human rights.

The Summer School is co-directed by Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights and Dr Dominique Bouchard, Curator at the Hunt Museum. The organisers envisage that the event will provide a platform for cross-fertilisation of ideas from the two disciplines of the arts and human rights, both of which are strongly aligned with issues such as social justice, cultural expression and cultural freedom. The summer school, which is currently open for enrolment, will follow the theme of ‘Belonging’ as seen from an arts and a human rights perspective.

The opening speaker will be United Nations’ leading expert on human rights and culture, Farida Shaheed (the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights).

Among the other speakers are: Professor Manfred Nowak, University of Vienna; Dr Guido Gryseels, Director Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium; Julian Fifer, Musicians for Human Rights; Vered Cohen Barzilay, Founder and Director of Novel Rights; Professor Rod Stoneman, Director of the Huston School of Film and Digital Media, NUI Galway; Mary Lawlor, Founder, Front Line Defenders; Professor Sarah Joseph, Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University, Australia; Professor Paul Seawright, Professor of Photography and Head of Belfast School of Art at the University of Ulster; Bob Collins, Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Rita Duffy, Artist; Dr Neil Jarman, Director of the Institute for Conflict Research, Belfast; Katerina Šedá, Artist; Jennifer Johnston, Novelist; Barbara Bukovska, Article 19; Leila Doolan, Film maker; Dominic Thorpe, Artist; Vincent Woods, Poet and broadcaster; and Susan McKay, Author.

As part of the Summer School, a unique exhibition will be mounted at St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in Galway City, the 1949 UNESCO photographic exhibition illustrating the then recently adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This exhibition toured the world at the end of the 1940s to build awareness and understanding of human rights. The exhibition will go on from Galway to be shown at UN headquarters in New York.

Side by side with the 1949 exhibition the winning images from a new photographic competition, The Galway International Human Rights Photographic Competition will be displayed. This competition will invite images that depict the situation of human rights today.

NUI Galway’s James Hardiman Library will also mount an exhibition to run during the days of the Summer School. ‘Staging Belonging’ is a digital exhibition from the Theatre Archives of the University’s Library.

The Summer School will also incorporate performance. Confirmed performers include:

  • Ariel Dorfman’s “Speak Truth to Power: Voices from Beyond the Dark”, directed by Professor Patrick Lonergan, Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance.
  • ‘Tell me your Story”, The Irish Traveller with Music and Song’ with music from Uilleann Piper, Mickey Dunne; Brid Dunne on fiddle; Carl Hession on piano; songs by Mary Mc Partlan and narration by Donncha O’Connell.

Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: “We are very excited to have developed this world class and unique event. The interaction of the arts and human rights is neglected and the practitioners in both areas need to get to know and understand each other much better. There is no better a place to do this than the city of Galway with its fantastic record in the arts and the University’s international reputation for human rights research, teaching and advocacy.”

Dr Dominique Bouchard, Co-director of the Summer School, said: “Museums and contemporary art are exploring the relationship between art and social justice and the summer school offers a rare opportunity to contribute a new dimension and to help drive that dialogue. We hope the summer school will provide artists and human rights practitioners not only a chance to work together, but also the opportunity to challenge each other. The format of the programme is intended to maximise interaction and we look forward to the surprising outcomes which will no doubt emerge from such an experimental approach to these areas.”

For more details, to register or to see the full list of speakers visit


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