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On a visit to Oslo earlier this month I came across Unknown Numbers, an outdoor artwork in progress paying tribute to freedom of speech, being painted directly onto the Peace Wall outside the Nobel Peace Centre.
There is always an important and thought provoking installation outside the centre, a place where both fjord ferry commuters and visitors to the cafes and shops on Aker Brygge must always pass at City Hall Square.
Artists Shwan Dler Qaradaki and Johannes Høie started painting Unknown Numbers on 4 May, with the work consisting of large monumental portraits of free speech fighters, such as Carl von Ossietzky and Adnan Hassanpour, combined with graphic commentaries on the current condition of freedom of speech in the world.
I wasn’t around for yesterday’s completion of the 60m long artwork, but seeing it for the first time, I immediately recognised the image of Raif Badawi the Saudi humanitarian, writer and blogger who was sentenced to 1000 lashes four years ago.
Raif, who lived in Glasgow for a time, has 950 lashes and many years in prison left to serve – simply for blogging about free speech. His wife and three young children are living in exile in Canada.
This morning I was emailed by Scottish PEN to tell me that they are supporting English PEN who are asking people around the world to take part by photographing themselves with a poster of Raif which can be downloaded from their website. Photos must be sent by 17 June englishpen.org
On 9 June, the same day as the launch of Unknown Voices, the Nobel Peace Centre opened a major exhibition about Carl von Ossietzky inside the museum. It is entitled The Dangerous Prize. Freedom of speech is the main focus of many of the activities at the Nobel Peace Centre this coming season
“From many countries, we are receiving signals about bad conditions for freedom of speech and of the press. By shedding light on the stories of some of the individuals who are risking their lives for their freedom of speech, we want to remind all the people who are passing by, that freedom of speech is a right we need to defend and protect,” says Liv Tørres, executive director of the Nobel Peace Centre.