Monday, June 11, 2012

Salafists Destroy "Offensive" Art Work In Tunisia

Divine Creatures- offensive to Islamists in Tunisia

Instead of just ignoring something one might find offensive, the boorish, uncivilized Islamists want it outright banned or destroyed. And of course, their idea of offensive is often offensive in and of itself. An art exhibition/fair- The Printemps des Art Fair- in La Marsa, Tunisia was the latest target of their fanatical extremism. According to Luca Luccatini, the exhibit's director, four works in the exhibition were deemed "offensive to sacred values" by some Salafist oafs (two men, a woman in niqab and a lawyer) who showed up at the venue on Sunday and demanded they be removed.

When that didn't work someone broke into the gallery some time between Sunday night and Monday morning and destroyed some of the art works including some paintings (which they slashed) and an art installation which was removed and burned outdoors. A photograph was also apparently destroyed.

Luccatini had called the police after the first "aggressive" encounter- which included threats of returning-but that obviously was of no help, since they did, both to protest later that evening and then to destroy the work later on.

One of the 'offending' pieces was an art installation called "The Punching Ball" by Faten Gaddes. It's two punching bags, used in boxing, with a photo of a veiled woman and inscribed beneath the picture "I am a Christian woman." An obvious indictment against religious persecution. The abstract artwork above- "Divine Creatures"- was also found to be offensive, though no-one seems to know why. It's certainly not very appealing, but other than that, who knows. More than likely it was the title that they took umbrage with, since nothing is divine other than Mohammed and Allah. Or maybe it's the naked woman hidden amidst the mishmash of creatures.

A detailed account of the sequence of events can be found  in English on Tunisia Live here, and here. In French here.

After the initial encounter and before the vandalism occurred, the exhibit coordinators were able to galvanize fellow artists to counter Islamists who showed up in protest, and not surprisingly angry words were exchanged. And there has been criticism from both camps complaining about the other side's provocation. One Salafist, Mohamed Karim,  complained  about not being allowed to view the whole exhibition.

“I wanted to come to see for myself what was happening. I only saw a few pictures. They [supporters of the event] spoke a lot and I didn’t have a chance to see the other ateliers. They tried to provoke me, thank goodness I didn’t react."

And why should they let him? More importantly, why would he even want to view something he knows he would be offended by?!

Surprisingly, some feel the artists over-reacted, including a photographer who was at the event. Wijaya Mahouichi said,

“They are treating people unfairly. They are provoking people in front of the cameras.”

Well, I would too if it was my work or the work of my friends and people were threatening to destroy it.

Besides the destruction of art work, graffitti was found on the Abdallia Palace walls (where the event took place).

Freshly written messages in Arabic could be read including “Let God Be the Judge”, “Tunisia is an Islamic State, with the license of the Ministry of Culture, the Prophet of Allah gets insulted,” and “Hey you infidels, Ennahda, Tahryr and Salafist are brothers.”

Complaints have been filed, but no-one believes anything will happen since even the Culture Ministry, though claiming to support "freedom of creation", condemned some of the work as “all kinds of aggression against sacred values”. But what can one expect from an Islamist-led government.

To view some of the works, someone posted a video on a Facebook page. The video has the words  “Tomorrow all followers of Islam should rise in anger to defend Islam.”  There is also a list of all the artists that participated in the exhibit and photos of some of the supporters. Looks like some of the pieces might have hit a little too close to home, and those people will probably need to watch their backs.

As an artist and photographer the thought of anyone's work being destroyed infuriates me. No-one has the right to destroy another person's creative work. How dare they!

Bottom line, if you find something offensive turn the channel, turn the page or move on to the next painting. No-one is holding a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to view something they deem unsavory.

And they wonder why the West balks.

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