“Writing the Struggle Against Injustice”: A special exhibition to mark International Human Rights Day


A special evening of International talk, poetry and food was held at UWTSD’s Lampeter campus this month to mark International Human Rights Day and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.

Digwyddiad PEN Cymru 1

The event, entitled 'Writing the Struggle Against Injustice’, was organised in conjunction with Wales PEN Cymru and was an opportunity to hear from a number of speakers including Dr Rebekah Humphries (Lecturer in Philosophy at UWTSD), Professor Menna Elfyn (Professor of Creative Writing, Poet and President of Wales PEN Cymru), Maaz Bin Bilal (Dehli based poet, translator and lecturer), Dr Jeni Williams (UWTSD Senior Lecturer in Literature & Creative Writing, poet, translator and executive member of Wales PEN Cymru) and Lars Toth, a second year undergraduate at the University.   Each speaker presented work and ideas inspired by texts from the University’s Special Collections at the Roderic Bowen Library and Archive.  The event also included the launch of a special exhibition focussing on International Human Rights Day and featuring relevant items from the University’s Special Collections.  The oldest item dates from 1649 and the themes include parliamentary rights, women’s rights and the anti-slavery crusade. 

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being -- regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Following the event Dr Jeni Williams, the exhibition curator and who presented her translations from the Swedish poet Hana Halgren, said:

“I was delighted that so many different people came to the launch to celebrate the sharing of voices from across the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was one of the great post-war achievements, designed to prevent anything like the death camps ever happening again. Today, with Fascism on the rise and the persecuted forgotten or denied, we need to hold fast to a belief in common humanity more than ever.'

'The event was a celebration of mutual understanding.  Rebekah's talk on ethics and migration was perfect for the occasion and in line with the aims of Wales PEN Cymru, we chose to present writing that crosses linguistic boundaries. Menna read women's poetry from Afghanistan translated from Dari and Pashto, as well as her own work in Welsh and English translation; Maaz read English-language poetry using Urdu forms and I had an opportunity to read my own translations of Swedish poetry with Lars reading the originals. Delicious vegetarian Indian food completed an evening of cultural exchange.”

Digwyddiad PEN Cymru 2

In the new year, the exhibition will be open at the Roderic Bowen Library between Wednesday, January 2 and Friday, January 18 2019.  Special Collections Librarian, Ruth Gooding, added:

We were delighted to be able to celebrate International Human Rights Day.  Our exhibition features material from the 17th to the 19th centuries, demonstrating that historic books have a continuing relevance.  Most of the oldest material came from our collection of 9 000 tracts amassed by members of the Bowdler family.  Material that was designed to be ephemeral is now well over 300 years old.  In consequence, the research value of this collection is huge.

Everybody is welcome to visit the exhibition and we look forward to welcoming you to our Lampeter campus.”

During the event a collection was made for Wales PEN Cymru's work in Mexico and Turkey in relation to freedom of speech and the treatment of journalists.  Wales PEN Cymru was officially recognised as a PEN Centre at the 99th PEN International Congress in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in October 2014. 

An address was made by Professor Tom Cheesman (Swansea University) and Director of Wales PEN Cymru, explaining PEN International's work with imprisoned writers over the past 100 years.  The international organisation, known today as PEN International, was established in London in 1921, simply as PEN. Within four years there were 25 PEN Centres in Europe, and by 1931 there were several Centres in South America as well as China. 

PEN was one of the world’s first non-governmental organisations and amongst the first international bodies advocating for human rights. PEN the first worldwide association of writers, and the first organisation to point out that freedom of expression and literature are inseparable – a principle that the organisation continues to champion today and which is expressed in their Charter, a signature document 22 years in the making from its origins in 1926 and ratification at the 1948 Congress in Copenhagen. 

The food for the event was provided by members of Swansea Women’s Asylum and Refugee Support group.


Further Information

For more information please contact Arwel Lloyd, Principal PR and Communications Officer, on 01267 676663 / Arwel.Lloyd@uwtsd.ac.uk