What is Right Livelihood?
The idea of 'right livelihood' is an ancient one. It embodies the principle that each person should follow an honest occupation, which fully respects other people and the natural world. It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the earth's resources.
In every generation, there are groups of people and individuals around the globe who valiantly uphold these principles of right livelihood, often working in the face of adversity. The Right Livelihood Award exists to honour and support such people.
In the words of our Laureates
Conservation of diversity is, above all, the commitment to let alternatives flourish in society and nature, in economic systems and in knowledge systems. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times. It is a survival imperative, and the precondition for the freedom of all, the big and the small.”
Vandana Shiva (1993 India)
We are the ancestors of our grandchildren’s children. We look after them, just as our ancestors look after us. We aren’t here for ourselves. We are here for each other and for the children of our grandchildren.”
Roy Sesana (2005 Botswana)
“People often ask me why I have become engaged in so many issues and causes, and why I take so many risks in doing so. With all the problems we face today, for me it is more a question of whether I can afford not to be involved … There is so much each one of us can do to make a difference.”
Bianca Jagger (2004 Nicaragua)
The Right Livelihood Award logo
The logo of the Right Livelihood Award was created in the early 1980s by Gro Isali Faye Stjerneham who had the idea of using the Yin and Yang symbols and the flowers. It was first used on the Award diplomas in 1982. Today’s Right Livelihood Award logo builds on this symbolism:
- The Roundel symbolises the world and “wholeness”.
- Yin and Yang represent opposite forces interconnecting in the natural world.
- Lotus flowers relate back to the Buddhist origins of the ‘Right Livelihood’ concept – the traditional teaching of the Eight-Fold Path to Enlightenment, that focusses on ethical and honest work.
- Four petals on each flower symbolise the Award’s four objectives: Honour, Support, Educate and Inform; and the other four stand for its core values: Courageous, Committed, Action-oriented and Visionary.
- The infinity symbol formed by the two touching petals signifies the endless work and vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable world for all.
The Right Livelihood Award diplomas are still handmade in Skåne, Sweden by Bill-Ove Jonsson using the artist’s original design.
“When I saw the result, combining the flowers with the yin yang symbol, I immediately felt it was appropriate.”
Jakob von Uexküll, Founder President of the Right Livelihood Award.
The Right Livelihood Award Diplomas
Since 2011, the Right Livelihood Award Diplomas have been created by the Swedish artist Bill-Ove Jonsson. Each year, he produces the diplomas from a template that he developed together with the Foundation – format, illustrations (logo), colours, layout, text content including space for the name of the Award recipient, and the signatures by the Chair and the Founder President of the Foundation.
About the Diploma's Production Process:
Both versions of the diploma (one for recipients of the Cash Award and the Honorary Award) are originally fine art prints entirely produced by hand, based on various graphical art methods. The black colour, which forms the outline around the logo and the basic texts, is printed from a copper plate processed in several stages: in a darkroom with a UV-sensitive, so called ‘Riston film’ to print the words (except date and jury citation) and the Foundation logo; etching in an acid bath to increase the recesses/grooves in the plate where the words and logo were placed. This method of etching is called “aquatint” in graphic arts.
The other six colours of the logo are then printed from cardboard squares in exactly the same size as the copper plate, one for each colour. This method of using cardboard instead of e.g. copper plates is a more experimental approach referred to as “collography”.
With a Digital Twist
After the printing process, the original diploma sheets have been scanned and assembled into digital originals. Digitalization has also, alongside a generally smoother production, made it possible to include the individual jury citations for each of the Laureates on the Diplomas.
The actual diplomas which are handed out to the Recipients at the Award ceremony are produced by Giclée fine art print, a digital graphic arts technology in the form of high-quality inkjet printing with age-resistant ink on artistic paper. After the Giclée print, the Laureates’ names are added to the Diplomas in calligraphy. Then, the diplomas are signed by Jakob von Uexkull, Founder President of the Right Livelihood Award, and Monika Griefahn, Chair of the board.
Handed out by Heart
Finally, the diplomas are mounted in frames behind glass and an acid-free passe-partout – ready to be handed out at the annual award ceremony in the Swedish Parliament.
Glimpses of the process
After the copper plates are processed in a darkroom with UV-sensitive Riston film, they are put in an acid bath for etching.
The picture shows remaining fragments of the blue Riston film in the acid bath.
The logos’ various colour sections are cut out with a scalpel in cardboard. The whole pink part has been cut in this picture and the cardboard is coated with shellac.
To produce the original diplomas, seven plates are needed, one cardboard for each colour in the logo and two copper plates for the black parts (one for the Award diploma and one for the Honorary Award diploma).
The original diplomas are printed by hand in a gravure printing press at the prestigious Domeij graphics workshop housed with the Uppsala Artist’s Association, then digitilased to be Giclée fine art printed by Bildformatet in Uppsala.
Left: the copper plate for the original Honorary Award diploma containing black colour. Right: a proof.
Left: the five cardboard plates, which gave colour to the logo. Right: a copy of the pre-printed original Award diploma.
After the Giclée print, the Laureates’ names are written in calligraphy, which is also provided by Bildformatet in Uppsala.