Pussy Riot likely to perform in Cape Town after secret visit

30 November 2018 - 15:08 By CLAIRE KEETON
Pussy Riot in Cape Town on Friday November 30, 2018
Pussy Riot in Cape Town on Friday November 30, 2018
Image: Esa Alexander

Members of Russian protest punk group Pussy Riot - whose human rights activities have led to them being beaten, locked up and poisoned – are expected to perform in Cape Town this weekend, although they won't say where.

“We don’t usually tell anything about our work,” said Olya Kurachova, one of the three  members who ran onto the pitch during the finals of the soccer World Cup in July in Russia to raise awareness of human rights abuses there.

Kurachova, Veronika Nikulshina and Olga Pakhtusova spoke to the media at the V&A Waterfront on Friday after spending the past two weeks in the city. Italian visual artist Marinella Senatore invited them to Cape Town to work with her.

The fourth participant in the soccer invasion, Peter Verzilov, who has been investigating the deaths of three Russian journalists, was not present. He was treated in Germany for severe poisoning and is still recovering.

Nikulshina said the other Pussy Riot members fled to Israel after lawyers advised them that it was not safe to return to Russia.

During the World Cup, the four artists ran onto the pitch dressed as policemen, but Pussy Riot members are better known for their bright neon leggings, balaclavas and screaming performances.

For their soccer demonstration they were sentenced to 15 days in jail but every day they face the threat of imprisonment. Nikulshina said: “We wake up and think, okay, where will we spend the night. A police station?” Recently she was arrested outside her apartment and held for two nights in prison.

Kurachova said: “We decided to use the World Cup final to show the difference between heavenly [ideal] policemen and earthly policemen, especially in Russia. We knew it was going to get worse after the World Cup so we decided to use the final to remind the world about the problems in Russia.

“If you live in Russia you never know what will happen the next moment, even if you are not a political activist or artist. Even if you are an ordinary person, something awful can suddenly happen to you.”

[Jacob Zuma] had a lot in common with [Vladimir Putin], maybe that’s why they were friends - corruption and stuff

The women visited Hong Kong last month to speak about freedom of expression but the event was cancelled. “People in Hong Kong are very scared of the Chinese government,” said Kurachova.

The Pussy Riot trio in Cape Town, with their finger and wrist tattoos, blue fingernails and pink hair, said they were willing to put their lives on the line and continually did so. This is key to joining the artistic anarchy collective, which was founded in August 2011.

Kurachova said SA and Russia had much in common, apart from the fact that Moscow cracked down on freedom of expression. Some 20 concerts had been cancelled there this year, she said.

“[President] Vladimir Putin is not a great person,” she said, and Nikulshina added: “Your previous president had a lot in common with him, maybe that’s why they were friends - corruption and stuff.”

Asked about life after Putin, she said: “That would be pretty strange. I’m 21 and all my life I have been under Putin’s control.”

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