Writers, journalists and artists who speak truth to power and safeguard civil rights and free speech, increasingly become targets of governments and other actors attempting to silence them. Both PEN International and ICORN are dedicated to creating opportunities for writers and artists to move freely – intellectually, culturally, physically. As cities have become important actors for hospitality, solidarity and creativity, since 2006, more than 200 writers, journalists and artists have found safety and the opportunity to continue to work and be vocal in an ICORN residency.
Exile is by definition about loss, suffering, of being uprooted from ones’ native land, family, culture, identity. What is the place of exile and can displacement from the familiar mean new beginnings, new possibilities, new ways of belonging? Can home be a concept that encompasses multiple locations, in a more diverse, dynamic and interdependent world? With the space to express oneself freely, can language and other artistic expressions be the refuge an artist needs to dwell and create freely, and continue to be a voice for change?
We are thrilled that, for three days at the end of May, we are able to meet with distant colleagues and friends from our international network, to discuss the role of writers and artists, cities and communities in supporting the possibility for writers, journalists and artists to continue to raise awareness globally and be change actors for democratic values and freedom of expression.
Participants will engage in seminars, training workshops, readings, concerts and manifestations on topics such as writing & literary culture in exile; countering xenophobia; translation; protection and support mechanisms for writers and artists, and; digital security, resilience and security planning. There will be artistic events and interventions, and eyewitness reports from areas where writers, artists and human rights defenders are most under threat.
Yiyun Li and Shahidul Alam – Keynote Speakers
We are delighted to that both Yiyun Li and Shahidul Alam will be joining us in Rotterdam, giving keynote speeches.
The art of losing a home, the art of finding a home – keynote speech by Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li is the author of four works of fiction – Kinder Than Solitude, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, The Vagrants, and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl – and the memoir Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. A native of Beijing and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she is the recipient of many awards, including a PEN/Hemingway Award and a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. She teaches at Princeton University, USA
Freedom of expression in Bangladesh – keynote speech by Shahidul Alam
Award-winning Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam has documented human rights abuses and political upheaval in Bangladesh for over 30 years. He was released in November 2018 after spending more than 100 days in prison after publicly criticizing the government's violent response to the 2018 Bangladesh road safety protests. Alam joins us in Rotterdam to talk about freedom of expression in Bangladesh.
Culture, narration and encounters at the heart
The City of Rotterdam joined as a member of ICORN in Paris in 2016 and has since hosted two writers, Syrian Adnan Aloada and Hamed Ahmadi. They are offered both a home and a workplace at the Verhalenhuis Belvedere, who runs the ICORN programme in the city. The Verhalenhuis, the “House of Stories”, is a meeting place for the local community and has become an institution for culture, narration and encounter in only a few years, known to many and loved for its atmosphere. They create the framework of an excellent cultural programme during our days in Rotterdam - with people’s stories and personal exchange at the heart of it all.
Verhalenhuis Belvedere, PEN Netherlands and the Municipality of Rotterdam are our hosting partners in Rotterdam.