Why is this award-winning St Petersburg street art causing a stir in Kazakhstan?

Why is this award-winning St Petersburg street art causing a stir in Kazakhstan?
Happy New Year Comrades! by Pasha Cas in St Petersburg. Image courtesy of the artist

24 April 2019

An Almaty street artist has dedicated his victory in St Petersburg’s prestigious Sergey Kuryokhin Award to two activists jailed after calling for free democratic elections in Kazakhstan.

Pasha Cas took home the prize in the category Art in a Public Space for his work Happy New Year, Comrades! He is the first Kazakh artist to win the prize.

Writing on Facebook, Cas dedicated the award to Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekov who were arrested after unfurling a banner reading “you can’t run from the truth” during the Almaty marathon. Underneath the slogan were the words #AdilSailayUshin (“For Fair Elections”) in Kazakh and #УМеняЕстьВыбор (“I Have A Choice”) in Russian.

In his post, Pas called the protestors “compatriots and fellow artists.” “I think that their way of expressing their opinions can be considered public art that raises timely issues,” he said. “People should be given awards for art; not arrested. We’re with you, guys. Stay strong.”

Both Tulesova and Tolymbekov were jailed for 15 days for administrative offences, with Tulesova going on hunger strike until her release. Three others, Suinbike Suleimenova, Aidos Nurbulatov, and Aigul Nurbulatova, were also detained for filming the event.

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