Artist George Gittoes AM wins Sydney Peace Prize 2015
13 April 2015
Australian artist George Gittoes AM has been selected to receive the 2015 Sydney Peace Prize. The Prize will be awarded on Tuesday 10 November at Sydney Town Hall.
The 2015 Sydney Peace Prize Jury's citation reads:
"George Gittoes AM: For exposing injustice for over 45 years as a humanist artist, activist and filmmaker, for his courage to witness and confront violence in the war zones of the world, for enlisting the arts to subdue aggression and for enlivening the creative spirit to promote tolerance, respect and peace with justice."
The Sydney Peace Prize is Australia's only annual international prize for peace. For the past seventeen years the Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney has awarded it to someone who has made a significant contribution to peace with justice, respect for human rights and the language and practice of non-violence. Past winners include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky.
Gittoes grew up in the Sydney suburb of Rockdale and studied Fine Arts at The University of Sydney. In 1970 he helped establish The Yellow House artists collective in Kings Cross with others including Martin Sharp and Brett Whitely.
Gittoes' activism evolved through his work as a painter, film maker and photojournalist. He has chronicled conflicts and social upheavals in places including Nicaragua, Somalia, Cambodia, Western Sahara, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor, South Africa, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan.
In 1995 Gittoes was a witness to the massacre of thousands of Rwandans at a displaced persons camp where they had sought protection from UN peacekeeping forces. This inspired his painting, The Preacher, which won the 1995 Blake Prize for religious art.
"At a time when the world is speeding into a new cycle of war," says George Gittoes, "it is inspiring that the Sydney Peace Foundation values art as a way to help overcome the brutality. The award of the Sydney Peace Prize is a wonderful and unexpected honour".
"George Gittoes is daring, brash and irreverent - qualities Australians identify with," says David Hirsch, Chair of the Foundation. "He is also generous, open-minded and compassionate - qualities we also identify with, but which have been in short supply in recent years. The Jury felt his unique approach to peacebuilding and social justice should be recognised and applauded."
Gittoes is currently based in Jalalabad, Afghanistan - arguably the most dangerous city in the world. Against all odds, and at great personal risk from the Taliban, he has established a new Yellow House artists collective. Its mission is to bring peace and positive social change, not with weapons of war but with a broad range of creative media and strategies.
Gittoes' documentary film Love City Jalalabad won awards for Best Documentary and Most Socially Relevant Film at the New York Winter Indie Film Festival in February this year.
Art historian Dr Rod Pattenden says: "His images pry open the door to a conversation about what it means to be human at the very limits, where petty myths, tired illusions and worn-out symbols collapse. This is the dare at the heart of his practice - to activate the imagination rather than fear, and to create hope in the face of chaos."
"I feel privileged to have been able to spend much of my life creating beauty in the face of the destruction of war," says Gittoes. "I have been waging a personal war against war with art."
The Sydney Peace Prize will be presented at Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday 10 November where George Gittoes will be delivering the 2015 City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture. For more information and tickets visit www.sydneypeacefoundation.org.au
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