Swissaid targets social injustice

Indian artists were commissioned to design the William Tell posters Keystone Archive

William Tell has been enlisted by a Swiss development aid organisation to aim his crossbow at social injustice around the world.

This content was published on February 14, 2002 minutes

But anyone expecting a poster campaign featuring the legendary Swiss freedom fighter shooting an apple off his son's head is in for a surprise. Swissaid has commissioned Indian artists to paint Asian, African and Latin American versions of Tell's son with tropical fruit rather than an apple as the crossbow target.

The artists, from the Balkrishn art workshop in Bombay, are specialists in creating posters for the region's flourishing film industry.

"For centuries, William Tell has been a symbol of the struggle for freedom and independence not just in Switzerland but all over Europe," Swissaid's executive secretary Bruno Riesen told swissinfo. "He epitomises the need to change things for the better.

"The message we want to put across - through Tell - is that unless we show the courage to change and do what is vital for sustainable development, then there is no development."

Too Swiss

Swissaid chose Indian artists to design the posters because the traditional image of William Tell was thought to be "too Swiss". Says Riesen: "Tell's values were universal."

Riesen added that since the September 11 attacks, the choice of Tell as a symbol for such a campaign had taken on a new relevance: "At a time when powerful leaders and their governments are dividing the world into good and evil, it is important to oppose both the great and the petty injustices."

Swissaid does not carry out projects abroad of its own, but reacts to requests made by local organisations needing support for their own plans.

In 2001 it supported 231 projects in nine countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Over half of the total cost of SFr16.8 million ($9.9 million) was raised in a fund-raising campaign, with most of the rest coming from the Swiss federal government.

by Richard Dawson

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