Safe Havens Freedom Talks
Safe Havens Freedom Talks (SH|FT) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of artists at risk and artistic freedom.
SH|FT provides open platforms for human rights defenders in the arts globally. It develops meeting places for various organisations, groups, institutions (non-governmental and state), individuals and artists who defend the rights of the persecuted creatives and academics. By stimulating mutual development through collective partnership and encouraging international collaboration, SH|FT aims to promote a better view of the field in total and share the knowledge on matters such as shelter city initiatives, international campaigns, funding opportunities and access to legal advice.
Further, SH|FT strives to assess global and regional threats, enhance the understanding of the conditions of women, indigenous and LGBTQI+ groups, learn about and explore means of safe communication. SH|FT organises live and virtual conferences and initiates thematic discussions while identifying and promoting key artists and activists to engage with wider communities. It also helps cross-border, cross-sector participants to see from each others’ perspectives through focused debates.
To read more about the background of this organisation, please check:
The vision of Safe Havens Freedom Talks is a world where authorities and groups respect and understand the capacity of free cultural expression in the creation of sustainable and peaceful societies.
- To work towards the safety and possibilities of free artistic and intellectual expression for artists at risk.
- To invite, and expand the network of stakeholders on all levels, governmental, intergovernmental, independent, legal and artistic, to protect and enhance the freedom of speech and artistic freedom.
- To support and facilitate capacity building in this sector.
- To prioritise women and marginalised groups in this field.
Meltem Dramer is a Coordination and Communication Manager at Safe Havens Freedom Talks (SH|FT). Previously, Meltem held Account Executive role at Flint and worked across a range of clients including Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Odunpazari Modern Museum (OMM), Anna Laudel, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Performistanbul, Mamut Art Project and Beykoz Kundura. Prior to Flint, she worked at art galleries such as REM Art Space and Mixer where she assisted with the exhibitions and administration operations. She has also gained professional experience at IKSV and 5533. Meltem holds a master’s degree in Applied Cultural Analysis from Lund University and a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Cultural Management from Istanbul Bilgi University.
Penny Papaspyropoulou is an Athens based independent human rights specialist and the local coordinator for the 2023 Safe Havens Conference for SH|FT. Penny carries diverse experience from policy-making, project management and research with a focus in education, training and empowerment of vulnerable groups. She has worked with various grassroots organisations and at the European Parliament, bringing together different actors over common goals. She has been leading a network of human rights practitioners on a European level and takes great interest in the intersection of arts, activism and the environment. Penny completed a bachelor in International and European studies at Panteion University for Social and Political Sciences and holds a Master's degree in Human Rights and Democratisation from the Global Campus of Human Rights.
The current SH|FT Board was elected at the General Assembly in April 2023
Previously a filmmaker, Elg is now a strategic developer in the field of arts and culture. He specialises in issues concerning democracy, inclusion and freedom of speech, at the crossroad of arts and human rights. He has managed independent art organisations, worked for the Swedish Arts Council, Malmö City and partnered with several global organisations working with democracy and freedom of speech, as well as conceptualised and launched the Safe Havens Conference for creative professionals under threat. Elg has developed initiatives for inclusion, democracy and free speech for more than 15 years. In 2015 he was appointed leader of the feasibility study, for the Museum of Movements. He is one of the founders and a general manager of the non-profit organisation Safe Havens Freedom Talks (SH|FT). Elg has studied arts, journalism and social studies at Lund University, Malmö University and at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Photo: Sofia Elg
Jan Lothe Eriksen
Jan Lothe Eriksen has served as General Manager for Safemuse since its creation: A former musician and cellist of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, vice president of the Norwegian Musicians' Union (now Creo - Norwegian Union for Arts and Culture), administrative director of the Norwegian Traditional Music and Dance Association (NFD) & Norwegian Traditional Music Agency, and initiator and first director of Riksscenen (National Venue for Traditional Music and Dance, Norway). Jan initiated Safemuse together with Creo in 2011 in close cooperation with Freemuse. Safemuse was formally established in December 2013 as an independent membership organisation by musicians and composers in Norway, with the main purpose to facilitate safe places to work and stay for persecuted artists and artists at risk. Jan and Safemuse have followed and have had different assignments and positions in connection to Safe Havens since the very start of the initiative.
Photo: Even Finnsrud Musikkultur
Eleni Tsitsirikou lives and works in Helsinki. Currently she is the Residency Manager at HIAP - Helsinki International Artists Programme, a non-profit artist residency organisation that offers artists and arts professionals based in Finland and abroad time and space for open-ended research and experimentation, as well as opportunities to undertake creative work and engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue with the local art scene. During her time at HIAP she has managed projects, events and exhibitions, and has worked with residency programmes that highlight a geographical area, an aspect of artistic practice or focus on specific topics such as freedom of artistic expression, as well as art and ecology. Before coming to Finland, Eleni worked as curator’s assistant in organising temporary exhibitions at the Teloglion Foundation of Art in Thessaloniki, Greece, and coordinated a team working with digitization of the Foundation’s archival materials. Born and raised in Greece, she holds a BA in Archaeology and Art History from the Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and a MA in Museum Studies from the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany. She complemented her studies with an international exchange at the Institute of Art History at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany.
Photo: Jarno Rautio
Paminder Parbha is a human rights worker, artist, and a keen advocate of culture as a driver for social change and cohesion. During a career spanning over 25 years which have included working for Amnesty International as well as Freemuse as the Research and Policy Advisor, her key focus has been on addressing systemic forms of discrimination. Paminder joined PEN International in November 2020 as the Head of International Programs.
Lotta has been working as a journalist all her life, most of the time with the leading Swedish morning daily Dagens Nyheter. During her 36 years there she held many different positions: reporter, local trade union leader, editorial management, and finally four years Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem. Since her retirement in 2007 she has been working as a freelancer, reporting mainly from the Middle East: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Her stories have been published in Dagens Nyheter and other daily newspapers and magazines. From 2008 to 2021 she was a board member in the Swedish branch of Reporters Without Borders. She was mostly working with security training projects for journalists in conflict zones (Gaza, Jordan, Egypt). The last two years she has worked with training projects for journalists in exile in Sweden, to improve their chances to continue their profession in a new country.
Kagiso Lesego Molope
Kagiso Lesego Molope is an Indigenous South African, an award-winning novelist and playwright. She writes post-apartheid, feminist and resistance literature. Her work centres the history and experiences of indigenous South Africans and tackles issues of race, class, sexuality and identity and her books are read in schools across Southern Africa as well as in parts of Europe. Her published novels are Dancing in the Dust, The Mending Season, This Book Betrays My Brother and Such a Lonely, Lovely Road. Her play, Maya Angelou: Black Woman Rising has been produced and staged at Oslo’s Nordic Black Theatre. She became the first indigenous South African writer to be on the IBBY List in 2006 and to win the Patrick Fitzpatrick Award for Young Adult Literature. In 2019 she won both the Ottawa Book Award and the Inaugural Pius Adesanmi Memorial award, for her third and fourth books respectively. She has been living in Canada for the past two decades.
Curators and Advisors
Mary Ann DeVlieg
Mary Ann DeVlieg is an independent consultant, project and policy evaluator, facilitator and speaker. Co-founder of IARA, International Arts Rights Advisors, since 2010 she protects and defends human rights of artists-at-risk as case worker and researcher. She founded the EU working group, Arts-Rights-Justice; was freeDimensional’s Director of Strategic Development (2013-2015) and is a co-founder of the Arts-Rights-Justice Academy, University of Hildesheim. Former Secretary General of IETM (1994-2013), the largest international network for contemporary performing arts. She founded/co-founded www.on-the-move.org and Roberto Cimetta Fund for Mobility in the Mediterranean and is currently undertaking a PhD on the rights of relocated artists.
Michael Schmidt is a Johannesburg-based veteran investigative journalist and best-selling non-fiction author who has worked in 47 countries on six continents. He founded the Professional Journalists' Association of South Africa (ProJourn) in 2010 and got into the arts rights justice field in 2012 through his work on journalism safety. Since 2016, he has served as the official rapporteur of the annual Safe Havens summit, and in 2019 co-founded the non-profit Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART) which ran the logistics on Safe Havens in Cape Town that year. HART was a co-founding organisation of the Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network in 2020.
Photo: Gerard Rudolf
Jude Dibia is a Nigerian award winning novelist and human rights advocate. Dibia has been a member of the Safe Havens management team since 2017 and currently manages Malmö’s Fristadsprogram (sanctuary program for writers and artists at risk).
Svetlana Mintcheva is a strategy consultant in the area of culture, the arts and freedom of expression. She was formerly director of programs at the New York based non-profit, National Coalition Against Censorship (ncac.org) and still consults for the organization. She has written extensively on emerging trends in censorship, organized public discussions and mobilized support for individual artists, curators, authors, teachers and librarians. Dr. Mintcheva is the co-editor of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (The New Press, 2006) and of Curating Under Pressure: International Perspectives on Negotiating Conflict and Upholding Integrity (Routledge, 2020). An academic as well as an activist, Dr. Mintcheva previously taught literature and critical theory at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria and at Duke University, NC from which she received her Ph.D. in critical theory in 1999. More recently, she has taught at New York University. Her current research focuses on the challenges to the concept of free speech posed by the increased role of private cultural platforms, including social media; social justice movements; political polarization; and geopolitical turmoil.
SH|FT is grateful to the funders that make its work possible. Main funders include the Swedish Arts Council under the Programme for Artistic Freedom, funded by Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) and UNESCO-Aschberg programme. The current exhibition and platform project is funded by the Swedish Postcode Foundation.
As an independent international NGO, Safe Havens Freedom Talks (SH|FT) works through collaborations with a wide range of networks, institutions, initiatives and individuals from the global arts rights justice sector. Among its close partners, we are proud to count Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network, Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI), Arts Rights Justice Academy (University of Hildesheim), Culture Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy), Ettijahat – Independent Culture, Freemuse, Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART), International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), PEN International, Safemuse, Women Chapter International, and many others. We are especially grateful to Safemuse who has graciously supported SH|FT as its fiscal sponsor organisation in the start-up period.
The past Safe Havens Conferences have been opportunities for especially fruitful and broad collaborations. You can find the names of the many partners that made these events possible in our archive of past conferences. We encourage you to explore their inspiring and urgently needed work. In the first years of the Safe Havens conference, it was graciously hosted by the City of Malmö. In 2019 the conference was hosted by the City of Cape Town and other partners, and since then, it has been a global touring event.