23 January 2013
South African-born and raised actress Charlize Theron was one of three “exceptional cultural leaders” to be given special awards at the opening of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.
This year’s gathering of global political and business leaders has drawn more than 2 500 participants from over 100 countries, including nearly 50 heads of state or government, 1 500 business leaders, and representatives from civil society, media, academia and the arts.
After WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab opened proceedings on Tuesday, Hilde Schwab presented the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship’s Crystal Award 2013 to Theron, US artist Vik Muniz and Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
The award celebrates “artists who not only excel in their art but also help to improve the world”.
South African singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka received the same award in 2012.
Theron, founder of the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, told the gathering that she aimed to use the spotlight she attracted as an entertainer to draw attention to one of the world’s greatest problems, the HIV epidemic in South Africa in particular and sub-Saharan Africa in general.
South Africa has the largest HIV-positive population in the world, while sub-Saharan Africa is home to three-quarters of the world’s HIV-positive youth.
Theron said South Africa had made considerable progress in tackling the pandemic, with the eradication of mother-to-child HIV transmission in particular being an “incredible stride”, but said much work remained to be done to ensure that young people had “the resources, skills and life-saving information to lead an HIV-free life”.
Documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy told delegates that film had the power to change lives. A recent documentary of hers had an impact on legislation in Pakistan, causing acid attacks to be treated as terrorism and punished with prison terms.
“My mission as a filmmaker is not only to expose all the things that are happening around the world, but also to become a voice for those who cannot tell their own message,” Chinoy said.
Artist Vik Muniz said that he was working to “use art as an element of inclusion” and towards making art “a right, not a privilege”. To achieve these goals, he was taking art out of exclusive exhibition spaces. One such project, his work with Brazilian garbage pickers, became an award-winning documentary film, Waste Land.
The WEF is an independent international organisation that seeks to improve the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. This year’s meeting runs until 27 January under the theme “Resilient Dynamism”.
A high-profile South African delegation, led by Jacob Zuma, is attending the meeting. The country is taking part in various forums, and on Wednesday will host a high-level thought leader session under the theme “Africa’s dynamism”.
Here, key South Africans and their international counterparts will make a case for more foreign direct investment into Africa, highlighting the fact that the continent is a leading investment destination for good returns and sustainable socio-economic growth.