The symbolic importance of this prize has never been greater. In a time of unprecedented movement, displacement and re-settlement by immigrants and refugees, our central challenge is how we are all to live together. This must involve upholding human rights, while both engendering inclusion and respect for each other, and celebrating the cultural differences that make us unique. This challenge of weaving together human rights and cultural differences will permit us to leave behind the old racial and religious divisions. This is the basis for true citizenship — meaningful engagement by citizens for citizens founded on shared principles and values.
“Adrienne Clarkson asked me to create the medal for the Prize for Global Citizenship. I had the idea of bringing together the world of creation with that of the great mythological winged deities. Sedna is the Inuit goddess from whom all creatures of the sea spring. Atalanta, Nike, Lilith and the winged bearers of souls in Norse lore, the Valkyrie, each exist in an imperfect world. But through their strength, intelligence, independence, and compassion, they have created an iconography of champions and dissenters. Each in their own way is unyielding and stands apart as they chart a new course against buffeting waves. In the narrative of this medal, Sedna the creator emerges from the waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of our winged guardian.”
—Anna Williams, sculptor
Ai Weiwei is one of the most influential artists of our time. He is equally admired for his fearless activism on behalf of human rights, freedom of expression, and the plight of regular people, whether earthquake victims in China or refugees in the Mediterranean. Consistent in his art and activism alike is a critique of the dehumanizing effects of systems, and an insistence on the moral necessity for individuals to speak out. “Citizens,” Ai Weiwei writes, “should bear the responsibility to act.”
For his constant and steadfast championing of human rights, he was celebrated with the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship in Toronto on September 27, 2017.
On September 21, 2016, His Highness The Aga Khan was named the inaugural recipient of the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship.