Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) and the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH – CRC) are organising an Anti Death Penalty Awareness month throughout the month of October.
Using the concept of ‘creative activism’, AIM and KLSCAH – CRC will be bringing you an art exhibition, a film festival & dialogue and a public discussion with photographer Toshi Kazama! Regardless of which side of the fence you decide to perch on, you are bound to be drawn to the artistic morbidity of this series of events.
The events are in conjunction with the World Coalition’s 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty which falls on 10th October 2011. This year’s World Day focuses on the Inhumanity of the Death Penalty. The theme addresses the death penalty as a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment not just during execution but throughout the entire process.
“The mental anguish a person endures knowing that he/she is living only to be killed is incomparable to any other kind of torture”, says Nora Murat, Executive Director of AIM. In many countries, death row inmates are kept in appalling conditions. Some such as Brandon Rhode who was executed in Georgia last year were driven to the brink of insanity. Brandon Rhode had been so terrified of his execution that he attempted suicide on the morning of the day. He was resuscitated only to be executed a week later.
In Malaysia, our year has been punctuated by tales of young individuals tethering precariously on the edge of the scaffold as they await news of their fate. Yong Vui Kong and Cheong Chun Yin are hardly strangers to us anymore. Many times have we read and heard, perhaps even retold the tragedy of their naivety. Then there are the stories of starry eyed lovers and even the mentally disabled who are duped into carrying drugs!
“Everyone knows the issues surrounding the death penalty. Yet, we tend to take it for granted that it is necessary and we avoid talking about it. To some people it’s still taboo”, says Liau Kok Fah, CRC-KLSCAH Chairperson. “We hope that highlighting the issue in a less formal setting, we will be able to get more people to rethink their stand. Through arts, exhibition, film screening and dialogue, public can understand the logical discourse of death penalty, and comprehend the reasoned debate of human rights ”.
So, dive into the inkwells of some creative minds in our Art Exhibition themed, “In Death Row’s Shadow”. The exhibition will run from 1st – 10th October 2011 at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH). On weekdays it will be open from 3.00 pm till 9.00 pm while on weekends it will be open from 11.00 am till 9.00 pm. We will be featuring an array of local, US and Singaporean water colour, acrylic painting, sculptor, and visual arts artists such as Zelin Seah, Susan Loone, Seelan Palay and Chong Kim Chiew.
Then, on 8th and 9th October 2011 we will imbibe you into the murky areas between life and death. On both days, from 2.00 pm-5pm and 7pm-10.00 pm we will be showing powerful films and documentaries on the death penalty. Can the death penalty ever be voluntary? How does one use the death penalty to rid oneself off an errant wife? Whatever the question may be, share them with us.
Finally, on 23 October 2011 experience the reality of the death penalty through US based, Japanese photographer Toshi Kazama. Toshi Kazama is an activist who photographs the faces of juvenile offenders on death row. His interest arose because as he raised his own children in USA, he was compelled to study the local criminal justice system. This opened his eyes to the problems within the system. He also photographs death chambers in USA.
Nora Murat, says, “Through our experience, we notice that young people react better to activities which allow them to express their own individuality. So if we want people to understand that the death penalty is inhuman, we need to be able to bring this issue to level where people are able to relate and where it is tangible”.