De­pic­tion of the Prophet Muham­mad ripped out of Mal­tese art in­stal­la­tion in Stras­bourg

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri

A Mal­tese artist was shocked to learn that his art in­stal­la­tion at the Coun­cil of Europe was de­faced be­cause it in­cluded an edited and toned down ver­sion of the in­fa­mous Dan­ish car­toon of the Prophet Muham­mad.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent can re­veal that the section of the 1000photo col­lage that showed a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the prophet was lit­er­ally sliced off – al­legedly by a Mus­lim MP who took of­fence at the pic­ture.

Con­tacted by this news­pa­per yes­ter­day, artist Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard con­firmed that his work had been cen­sored. He ex­plained that his work, en­ti­tled ‘Ex­iles: The road not taken’, which is based on hu­man rights, had been de­faced.

“The art in­stal­la­tion is made up of eight pan­els with a col­lage of over a thou­sand pho­tos that are re­lated to var­i­ous hu­man rights, in­clud­ing the right to free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion. I was shocked to learn that my work had been cen­sored at the Coun­cil of Europe – the head­quar­ters of hu­man rights – of all places. I never ex­pected such a thing to hap­pen.”

Mr At­tard ex­plained that the ‘of­fend­ing’ piece was an edited ver­sion of the in­fa­mous Dan­ish Muham­mad car­toon, which had led to protests and vi­o­lent ri­ots in sev­eral coun­tries. “I ob­vi­ously knew the his­tory be­hind it so what I did was I cov­ered the prophet’s face with a ban­ner with the word ‘cen­sored’ writ­ten over it. I did this so that it would not of­fend any­one.”

The art­work was in­stalled just this Mon­day in one of the CoE’s main lob­bies. Mr At­tard said he could not say as of yet who was re­spon­si­ble for this “ironic form of cen­sor­ship” but said he was in­ter­ested to know how the Coun­cil of Europe would re­act. “I ex­pect the CoE to con­demn this pub­licly,” he said.

Mr At­tard said that, as an artist he had a li­cence to in­ter­pret things in an artis­tic way. He added that this act of cen­sor­ship had ef­fec­tively “de­stroyed” the art in­stal­la­tion, which is printed on one en­tire piece of can­vas.

Sources close to the Coun­cil of Europe said the per­son who had taken of­fence and torn out a piece of the can­vas was a Turk­ish MP. Con­tacted b this news­pa­per, Turk­ish Am­bas­sador to Malta Reha Ke­skin­tepe said he had read our re­port with sad­ness but told us he had no in­for­ma­tion on the mat­ter. “We have no in­for­ma­tion on the ex­hi­bi­tion, let alone this in­ci­dent you men­tion in the ar­ti­cle.”

A de­scrip­tion of Mr At­tard’s lat­est work says it is “in­spired by the fact that Malta is mark­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of Malta’s sign­ing of the Coun­cil of Europe’s Con­ven­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of Hu­man Rights and Fun­da­men­tal Free­doms. The col­lage treats var­i­ous is­sues re­lated to the sub­ject of hu­man rights, in­clud­ing gender is­sues, racism, free­dom of speech, the death penalty, women’s rights and refugees.”

Ac­cord­ing to the artist ‘The road not taken’ is about both ideas and emo­tions. “The eight pan­els are made up of im­ages re­searched and mainly lifted from the in­ter­net, por­tray­ing a wide va­ri­ety of sub­jects, oc­ca­sional text and Face­book-like memes with an un­der­ly­ing thread re­flected in the ti­tle.

“The au­thor clearly wants to pro­voke his au­di­ence,” the de­scrip­tion says. And the au­di­ence has cer­tainly been pro­voked.

Ques­tions sent to the For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry and the Coun­cil of Europe re­mained unan­swered by the time of go­ing to print.

Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.