The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth*), is one of three winners of the 2015 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent, as announced on Wednesday by the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF). Also receiving the prize are members of the Sudanese non-violent resistance movement Girifna, and the Indonesian comic Sakdiyah Ma’ruf. The prize will be awarded in an Oslo Freedom Forum ceremony on May 27.
The graffiti artist, who has been in prison since last December charged with contempt, continues to await trial. He was arrested while attempting to stage a performance with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raul.”
“Through his art, El Sexto reveals the intolerance of the Cuban regime,” said the former Romanian president Emil Constantinescu. “A government that is afraid of an artist and his work has a truly fragile hold on power and is demonstrating its tyrannical nature,” he added.
Girifna, whose name in Arabic means “we are fed up,” is a non-violent resistance movement in Sudan founded in 2010 by young pro-democracy activists. Its members have become a constant target for repression by the government of Omar al-Bashir.
Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is an Indonesian comic monologist who constantly challenges Islamic fundamentalism. Television producers have tried several times to censor her jokes, but Ma’ruf has always refused.
The three winners will receive a representation of the Goddess of Democracy, the iconic statue erected by Chinese students during protests in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 and will share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian kroner (about $44,000).
The Human Rights Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes human rights worldwide, established this prize with the support of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright and statesman Vaclav Havel to honor those who fight against dictatorships. Previous prize winners include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the Russian group Pussy Riot, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, among others.
*Translator’s note: Danilo jokingly adopted this moniker in reference to “The Cuban Five” also known, in Cuba, as “The Five Heroes”; five Cuban spies formerly in prison in the United States.