Alternative Nobel Prize for international poetry festival Medellin

December 2006 -

The Right Livelihood Awards will be presented in the Swedish parliament on 8 December 2006, on the eve of the official presentation of the Nobel Prizes. One of the striking winners this year is the Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin (Colombia). According to the jury, this poetry festival demonstrates how "creativity, beauty, free expression and community can flourish amongst and overcome even deeply entrenched fear and violence." When the first edition of the poetry festival was held in 1991, the initiators - thirteen poets - wanted to use poetry to overthrow the wall of terror, poverty and social upheaval that plagued Colombia and claimed dozens of deaths each day. Now the festival has grown to become the largest poetry festival in the world, with appearances by poets from all over the world and with visitors totalling more than 100,000.


Gloria Chvatal, Fernando Rendón, Gabriel Jaime Franco - photo: Ana Lucia Flo

When the Swedish-German author, professional philatelist and former member of the European parliament Jacob von Uexhull established the Right Livelihood Awards in 1980, his aim was to applaud and support individuals and initiatives that significantly contribute to solving issues such as environmental pollution, nuclear threat and violations of human rights. The annual presentation of the awards, now better known as the alternative Nobel prizes, has since acquired a status that could compete with the real Nobel prizes. Uexhull established the foundation for the prize money, totalling about 270,000 euros each year, by selling a collection of rare stamps. The foundation has since attracted additional donations.

Festival director Fernando Rendón expressed his excitement about the award in November 2006 during a speech he made at a conference on culture and development in Berlin, emphasising the festival's objectives: "I am convinced that culture must and has to play a fundamental role in any process of development. Art and poetry will contribute decisively to the upsurging of a new humanity, a new human society."

The Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin is supported by Hivos since 1998, and is also receiving support from DOEN Foundation.