“Human rights are inherent to all human beings,” says the United Nations, regardless of our nationality, place of residence, color, creed, language, sex, economic status, or any other status.
“Rights” is not a foreign concept. It is, in fact, embedded in our own Filipino language: karapatan, with its root lying in dapat or in what should be, what is right, or what must be. These rights, therefore, recognize each individual’s
dignity and value as human beings.
On the contrary, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity,” Nelson Mandela once said. These rights are protected and promoted by the law: our right to life, liberty, and security; political rights including freedom from torture and slavery, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to seek judicial remedy.
And yet, these days, people can say that human rights can be cast away in favor of certain “higher” goals, such as peace and security, the elimination of drugs, criminality, and terrorism.
To take a cue from John Berger who reflects on a Vietnam war photo by photographer Donald McCullin, we might argue that some of the images and ideas in this exhibit “remind us shockingly of the reality, the lived reality, behind the abstractions of political theory, casualty statistics or news bulletins.” And so we see through the eyes of the artists participating here – things that we perhaps have not seen, refuse to know, or choose to forget or ignore.