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Prominent figures in arts & activism honoured at SOAS

HONOURED: Forest Whitaker

SOAS UNIVERSITY of London is honouring pioneering figures in the fields of film, literature, social activism and human rights at this year’s graduation ceremonies.

The awardees are the Academy Award winning artist and social activist Forest Whitaker; writer and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; world-renowned author Dr Jung Chang; leading film curator June Givanni and prominent human rights activist Vrinda Grover.

Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, said: “At SOAS we are all about societal change and transformation. This year’s honorary awardees have all had a major impact in their areas of expertise and have challenged and continue to challenge conventional perspectives through film, the law and literature.

"They have deepened our understanding of society, politics, race and gender. They are inspiring role models and we are extremely proud to welcome them to the SOAS community.”

Forest Whitaker is an Academy Award winning actor, artist and social activist. He is the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI) through which he has developed the Youth Peacemaker Network, a global peacebuilding social network with hubs in South Sudan, Uganda, and Mexico.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning novelist. Her work includes Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize. Her 2013 novel Americanah won the US National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013.

PICTURED: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Guyanese-born June Givanni is a pioneering international film curator. Specialising in African and African diaspora cinema, Black British cinema, and Caribbean cinema, her contribution to the diversification of film culture in the UK and across the world is unparalleled. Ms Givanni has worked with a range of organisations including the British Film Institute where she also set up and managed the African Caribbean Unit and founded the Black Film Bulletin.

Dr Jung Chang is a world renowned author. Born in Sichuan Province, she left China for Britain in 1978 and obtained a PhD from the University of York becoming the first person from Communist China to receive a doctorate from a British university. She is best known for her autobiographical book Wild Swans – Three Daughters of China, published in 1991, which sold over 12 million copies and was translated into more than 30 languages.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover is a leading researcher and human rights activist based in New Delhi who has had a major impact in the area of human rights in India. Her advocacy efforts span from the local to the global through engagement with UN human rights mechanisms including the Universal Periodic Review and UN Special Rapporteurs.

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