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