Philip Botha, a professional tattoo artist, tattoos singer Honey - aka Sivu Sibaca - as part of the Human Rights Tattoo Project to create awareness and underline the importance of human rights. Picture: Dwayne Senior
Cape Town - Sander van Bussel, the founder and artist behind the Human Rights Tattoo Project, has visited the city for the last few days in a bid to tattoo the declaration of human rights, letter by letter, on 6773 individuals.

On Monday, Van Bussel, from the Netherlands, was one of the keynote speakers at the Open Design Afrika Festival, sponsored by the City of Cape Town. Speakers, who included mayor Dan Plato, discussed the power of innovation, collaboration, and using design for positive change in Africa.

While some made speeches and others took part in street protests to show they care about human rights, Van Bussel, an activist artist, spent seven years travelling the world convincing people to get tattoos to show their commitment to human rights.

The living art project was sparked by the February 2012 killing of Stephen Nyash, a friend and colleague shot dead in an informal settlement in Kenya.

“The killing made me angry and I started thinking of something to do to protect people from having their lives taken just like that. It was then the idea popped into my head that maybe we should unite as a text,” said Van Bussel.

“You can’t delete one letter without losing the message or the meaning of it. The most meaningful text to me is the declaration of human rights, because that sums up the moral base of humanity.”

His projects are known for their innovative concepts and using the power of art for social change. So far he has tattooed 4182 people and has 2591 to go.

Another Cape Town speaker at the festival was Siyanda Sopangisa, who with his brother Akona, founded the Khayelitsha Canoe Club.

Sopangisa hopes the club will contribute to reducing crime in the neighbourhood.

Other speakers included members of Brave Rock Girls, a non-profit that uses an unconventional approach training girls from rural and urban areas to become advocates and others.

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus