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Issue 36 Feature Communities

Meet the Artists and Writers Leveraging Their Voices for Good

History is not objective—it is shaped by the narratives that take up space in contemporary culture

March 16, 2016
Part 24 of 26 See all ›

Issue 36: The 2016 GOOD 100

Meet the remarkable individuals tackling pressing global issues today

Each year, GOOD celebrates 100 people from around the globe who are improving our world in creative and innovative ways—advocates, inventors, educators, creatives, business leaders and more who are speaking up, building things, campaigning for change, and ultimately refusing to accept the status quo.

In this section, meet 14 storytellers raising their voices to represent the vast diversity of mankind.

Genevieve Clay-Smith Makes Filmmaking Inclusive

Sydney

Filmmaker and actress Genevieve Clay-Smith doesn’t think you should count anyone out. Be My Brother, Clay-Smith’s award-winning 2008 short film, starred an actor with Down syndrome, and inspired Bus Stop Films, her nonprofit film studies program and production company for aspiring filmmakers with intellectual disabilities. Its films have screened at over 90 festivals worldwide and won more than 50 awards. This year, in addition to continuing to dispel the stigma surrounding intellectual disabilities, she is developing curriculum to share with like-minded organizations.

Nakkiah Lui’s Unapologetic Art and Activism

Sydney

Writer, actress, and aboriginal activist Nakkiah Lui followed up her groundbreaking 2014 sketch series, Black Comedy—a biting satire from the perspective of Australia’s first people—in style. The proud Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander debuted two new acclaimed plays: the raucous Blak Cabaret and the pointed Kill the Messenger, the latter of which explores the deaths of two Australian aboriginal people battling systemic racism. She also went viral—her speech last summer at the University of Sydney denouncing white privilege and the colonization of Australia incited discussion about racism in Australian theater.

eL Seed Transcends Cultural Divides

Paris, Dubai

French-Tunisian artist eL Seed calls his renowned intricate blend of Arabic calligraphy and street art “calligraffiti.” Preaching peace through colorful mash-ups of script and identity on post-revolution walls, his work has grown increasingly significant over the last year as mass migration has caused cultures to collide.

Sarah Feely Focuses on Unlikely Heroes

Los Angeles

Feeley makes films about the underdog, the other, and the hidden side of things. She helped produce Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers, about the dark side of war contract cronyism, and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, about small-town crusaders who took on the retail giant. Her most recent documentary, last year’s Raising Ryland, is an intimate portrait of two supportive parents and their young transgender son.

Mynette Louie Puts Women Center Stage

Sydney

Film producer Mynette Louie is president of Gamechanger Films, the first film fund and production company devoted exclusively to narrative features directed by women. Its latest, the minimalist Lovesong, directed by So Yong Kim, debuted at Sundance in January. The SXSW-hyped, Karyn Kusama-directed dinner party horror, The Invitation, comes out in March.

Inua Ellams Explores the Human Condition

London

Inua Ellams is a Nigerian-British poet, playwright, performer, and graphic artist whose work explores notions of fate and identity rising from conflict and displacement. He blends old and modern techniques, seamlessly splicing mediums and forms in his myriad creative projects. Ellams, who has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, is currently working on a sequence of poems, inspired by the notoriety of Nigerian financial escapades.

Clinton Walker Spotlights Marginalized Musicians

Sydney

When music journalist Clinton Walker published Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music in 2000, the book, documentary, and soundtrack reshaped the history of music in Australia, detailing how aboriginal bush ballad traditions evolved into the country’s best rock ‘n’ roll. An updated version has snowballed into a festival series sending aboriginal country acts around the world. Walker will soon finish his long-gestating companion work, Deadly Woman Blues, a graphic history of black female Australian musicians complete with a documentary, album, and stage show.

Ivan Moraes Democratizes Brazil’s Media

Recife

Six years ago, filmmaker and producer Ivan Moraes profiled hundreds of indigenous, African, disabled, and LGBT citizens in his hit documentary series, Pé Na Rua. At communication rights organization Centro de Cultura Luiz Freire, he focuses on the media’s institutional marginalization of such groups, raising awareness of problematic public policy and lobbying for more democratic broadcast systems. In 2016, Moraes is helping launch a public, city-owned FM radio station in Recife.

Tania El Khoury Provokes with Performance Art

Beirut

Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is known for art interventions that intrude into public space. She once staged a spy thriller in a public area in London, turning passersby into unwitting participants—her response to a British police report on how to spot a terrorist, essentially a primer on racial profiling. She also swam the Beirut coast to question increasing coastline privatization. Her interactive Gardens Speak project plays audio of ordinary Syrians’ final moments from speakers placed beneath an artificial graveyard.

Chaka Studio Preserves a Problematic Past

London

In 1995, the Peruvian government forced the sterilization of over 272,000 women and 21,000 men, mostly indigenous. Twenty years later, British production company Chaka Studio’s Maria Court, Rosemarie Lerner, Sebastian Melo, and Ewan Cass-Kavanaugh have unveiled The Quipu Project. An online transmedia documentary, the project has recorded hundreds of victims’ stories over an anonymous phone line, creating an archive that preserves and reclaims collective trauma. The team is working now to tour the project around the world as an interactive exhibit.

THEESatisfaction Speaks Its Truth

Brooklyn, Seattle

As THEESatisfaction, Catherine “Cat” Harris-White and Stasia “Stas” Irons croon and spit sharp social commentary over futuristic funk-psychedelic tunes. In 2015, the musical duo released its sophomore album EarthEE, which stretches the genre-mashing soul of their 2012 debut, awE naturalE, across frenzied tribal beats as the lyrics cover everything from cultural appropriation to sexism to the idea of a post-racial society.

Serge Attukwei Clottey Confronts Colonial Legacies

Accra

Multimedia and performance artist Serge Attukwei Clottey uses garbage to create works that explore themes like Ghana’s plastic pollution and trade history. He does this in the name of “Afrogallonism,” an Afrofuturist concept of Clottey’s, which asserts that the faulty economic relationship between Africa and the West can be upended through art. He also founded the GoLokal performance art collective to promote community engagement and recently presented his first American solo exhibition in New York.

Zackary Drucker Breaks Out of the Binary Box

Los Angeles

This past year, artist, director, and cultural commentator Zackary Drucker was at the forefront of the transgender community’s mainstream breakthrough in pop culture. Aside from co-producing hit show Transparent’s second season, she helped produce the Amazon trans docu-series This Is Me, directed the experimental short Southern for Pussy (co-created with her mother), and appeared on the reality show I Am Cait.

Haroon Gunn-Salie’s Art Is Above the Law

Johannesburg

Haroon Gunn-Salie’s public art challenges the South African establishment with a venom inherited from his anti-apartheid activist mother. The 27-year-old once changed 13 Zonnebloem road signs back to their old apartheid name to critique the government’s white-washing. His bronze sculpture, Sunday Best, earned Gunn-Salie a show at the prestigous 2016 SP-Arte in São Paulo.

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Meet the Artists and Writers Leveraging Their Voices for Good History is not objective—it is shaped by the narratives that take up space in contemporary culture