Hivos Brings Human Rights Tattoo Project to Southern Africa

May 5, 2014

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”  Those are the first 139 characters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In total the declaration consists of 6773 characters, and a group of artists wants to tattoo all of them – one person per character – onto people across the globe.

The project, which started in 2012, has already seen over 1,400 people tattooed. Now, with the assistance of Hivos and United Cultures for Development (UCD), it will tour Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, where several hundred people are expected to be tattoed.

The project is an initiative of the Tilburg Cowboys, a multidisciplinary arts outfit from the Netherlands, in association with Festival Mundial.

The aim? To get more people to be aware of the 30 individual rights that the declaration outlines. “You might think that these 30 rights are commonly known by everybody, but that is far from the truth. It is impossible to respect and protect these rights if they are not known. That’s why!” says a statement from the Tilburg Cowboys.

“As Human Rights apply to every single living human being, we ask people from all walks of life and all backgrounds and nationalities to offer a square centimetre of their skin for 1 character,” says the statement.

The hope is that when the project comes to an end, there will be 6773 people all over the world walking together with the complete text of the Declaration of Human Rights, making them into life time ambassadors for Human Rights.

The project organisers envisage that as these ambassadors share the background of their tattooes, they will become teachers of the declaration for years to come.

All the tattoos can be seen on the project website HIVOS supports the project as part of its efforts to encourage social messaging through the arts.