Let the Oppressed Go Free Now at The Basilica

Let the Oppressed Go Free

The Basilica of Saint Mary will exhibit the 22.5-feet long, 3.5-ton bronze sculpture Let the Oppressed Go Free on the front plaza throughout the spring. The Let the Oppressed Go Free sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, depicts Saint Josephine Bakhita opening up the underground and releasing modern-day slaves. The powerful piece, currently on tour across the U.S., was inspired by the scripture “setting free the oppressed” in Isaiah 58:6.

The sculpture brings attention to the societal issue by depicting human trafficking slaves being released from captivity. Fifty figures representing the different faces of human trafficking including sex exploitation, forced labor, debt bondage, and more are depicted—illustrating that men, women, and children can all become victims of human trafficking, particularly those from vulnerable communities.

“It’s almost impossible with one poster, or one figure, to actually represent the scope of the problem today,” Schmalz says of human trafficking. “I decided to do a piece that had around 50 different figures, showing all the unfortunate diverse ways of human slavery today. So, in a sense, it is creating awareness.”

Isaiah 58:6

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

From the Artist

Timothy P. Schmalz
For over 25 years, Timothy has been sculpting large scale sculptures. He is a figurative artist with his pieces installed worldwide.

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Art That Surrounds Us

Johan van Parys explores the details of Let the Oppressed Go Free.

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KARE11 - March 29, 2024
Interview with Johan van Parys, PhD
Managing Director of Ministries/ Director of Liturgy & Sacred Arts

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Crisis of Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy

What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will. Force, fraud, or coercion need not be present if the individual engaging in commercial sex is under 18 years of age.


Human Trafficking Hotline

Minnesota Safe Harbor

Oppressed Faces Image Bar

Faces of Human Trafficking

The sculpture features over 100 separate figures, and some specific oppressed people he mentions are:

  • Sex traffic worker
  • Child bride
  • Child soldier
  • Organ traffic

“At the base you will have the crawling, the struggle, but you will have the happiness and joy of the freedom that is reached.”
Timothy Schmalz