Thirty people in Manchester will have one letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tattooed on them as part of an international art project arriving in the UK for the first time.
The project intends to tattoo the 1948 document on to the skins of 6,773 people, one letter at a time. The tattoos are 1cm squared, and people aged between 18 and 30 in the UK have been invited to submit applications to participate.
The project was started in 2012 by the Dutch artist Sander van Bussel to raise awareness of the declaration. His work began with the declaration’s opening phrase, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, as its first 50 words.
Van Bussel, who will document the participant’s personal stories on the day, said: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written by the United Nations in 1948, wishing to protect humanity from the nightmares of world war two. Now, well over 70 years later, little seems to be left of that hope and the global divide is still growing.
“Our mission is to use the power of the idea, the imagination and individual decisiveness as a weapon against division and indifference. In today’s world where polarisation on all levels is on the rise, emphasising these fundamental human rights is particularly relevant. Everybody gets one letter. Everybody has their own unique story.”
The Manchester arts venue Contact is managing and hosting the event on 9 September with Human Rights Tattoo, and an experienced local tattoo artist will apply the letters over the course of one day.
Applicants are asked to express what the human rights movement means to them and why they want the tattoo, which will be drawn by Dax, a Manchester-based tattoo artist from India who specialises in fine line, single-needle tattoos, to whom participants can donate a fee of their choosing.
The first 23 articles are available to be read in tattoos on 4,601 participants from 77 countries. Van Bussel is hoping to finish the work on 10 December, the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights celebrates its 75th anniversary, though he intends to build further on his work with lectures and events.
He hopes the ink designs will be a conversation starter, encouraging people to reflect on the document and its global relevance.
Keisha Thompson, the artistic director and chief executive of Contact, said it was an “extraordinary, global project uniting around human rights and connection”, and that the organisation was “over the moon” to host the event.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a UN document drafted by representatives from countries and cultures around the world and enshrines fundamental human rights to be universally protected, focused on freedom, justice, peace and equality. It has provided the basis for more than 70 human rights around the world.