Chinese artist Ai Weiwei holds the Stockholm Impact Award sculpture, which he designed. Photo: Ulla Engberg/Radio Sweden
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The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei holding the Stockholm Impact Award sculpture that he has designed. Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR
Indian-American director Leena Yadav wins the first ever Stockholm Impact Award for her film Parched. Photo: Ulla Engberg/Radio Sweden
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Indian-American director Leena Yadav wins the first ever Stockholm Impact Award for her film "Parched". Photo: Ulla Engberg/SR

Ai Weiwei presents award in Sweden after China lifts travel ban

"Always try to use our best effort to achieve freedom of speech"
3:32 min

During his first ever visit to Sweden, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was part of a jury that on Tuesday selected film director Leena Yadav as the first winner of the new Stockholm Impact Award.

Ai Weiwei was part of the jury that awarded Indian-born Yadav the Stockholm Impact Award, which launched this year and aims to support "headstrong filmmakers who are not afraid to bring up burning topics in contemporary society". Yadav will receive a prize designed by Ai Weiwei as well as SEK 1million, the largest prize sum of any film award in the world.

Ai Weiwei was present at the announcement in Stockholm on Tuesday and while this is the third consecutive year that the world-famous Chinese artist collaborates with the Stockholm Film Festival, it is the first time that he has been able to come to Sweden. Previously, a travel ban issued by the Chinese authorities prevented him from coming over.

"I am very privileged to be part of the Stockholm Film Festival, especially this Impact series,” said Ai Weiwei, adding that the festival “has always been in the frontline in choosing interesting films which reflect our condition in aesthetics, in filmmaking, and also in social concerns, which is very important today.”

Ai Weiwei continued: "We see that the world has been through a very fast change, and there are so many things, so many questions that need to be answered. As filmmakers and artists, we always try to use our best effort to achieve freedom of speech in order to give new insights into our daily life and on the issues that relate to our human condition.”

In 2013, Ai Weiwei sent the art installation The Chair of Nonattendance to the film festival to illustrate his absence as a jury member. Last year, he sent two ice sculptures depicting the lions that guard Beijing’s Forbidden City. The ice sculptures were placed at a central Stockholm square and slowly melted away.

This year, Ai Weiwei  brought along a sculpture that Yadav will receive on Friday. It looks like a heavy crown but is made of grass and Ai Weiwei compares it to "indestructible spikes". The sculpture is a reference to the Chinese internet meme "Grass Mud Horse", a made-up creature that is widely used as a form of symbolic defiance of China’s internet censorship. Supposedly a species of alpaca, "Grass Mud Horse" is a play on Mandarin words that translate literally as “fuck your mother”. It is one of 10 creatures created in a hoax article whose names form obscene puns.

Yadav is the first-ever winner of the Stockholm Impact Award. She won for her film Parched and the jury’s motivation stated:

“Through superb acting, giving a unique insight into the minds and hearts of women in rural India, told with colorful, sensual cinematography, this film is a paradoxical celebration of life, in spite of tough circumstances, creating both anger and joy, giving fuel for debate as well as hope for change, when addressing a burning question that affects, not half, but the whole of our society.”

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