Censorship, expression and silence

Posted in Debate by Adele Todd on October 31, 2008

The BBC has been a source of information for me over the last few days, as I create a body of my own work. The radio keeps me company.

There was a show on the harrowing life of a female Iranian Artist that I listened to. She had been tortured and imprisoned for the content of her work. I naturally stopped what I was doing and got online to have a look at what all the fuss was about. As I was doing this, another bit of news about censorship in Indonesia came on the airwaves, so I ended up spending the morning looking at all of this.

My work is important, but what I feel about art and artists is also very important to me. This courageous woman, Souren Mousavi has undergone everything that could break her spirit, yet she has managed to persevere and moreso, use her art to heal as well as to tell her story.

Her technical skill is solid. Her attempts to tell her story, admirable. I was looking at her work on her site where my concern was whether all that she had gone through had retarded her ability in any way.

Had her experiences made her timid to explore certain types of images? Was she afraid to be more expressive? I found neither concern.

So, you can just imagine today, when I stumbled across another BBC segment, this time online about another female artist, not Iranian, but Muslim.

Sarah Maple, a twenty-three year old British artist of mixed parentage and religious persuasion has a show at SaLon Gallery in Notting Hill where she has shown several self portraits in hijab.

See death threats to an artist on BBC video

The contrast between Miss Maple and Miss Mousavi warrents thought about meaning behind works produced by women of Muslim faith.

On the one hand, you have Miss Mousavi being punished for making her work and Miss Maple appearing to be making work that is consciously subversive.

It is a matter of geography to some extent. Miss Maple can create the work that she has, in England. Miss Mousavi can go to jail for much less.

The unfairness of the matter is clear. But should it be asked, who is the better artist? The one with the real history, or the one creating works that test and push on that history?

I think that both women have a place in the larger argument. Whether you like one’s work over the other, or find neither bodies of work interesting, these women are not just making Art. They are also making history as women in a Muslim world where clerics are willing to ask women to die for them, while they stay safely at home.

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  1. Souren Mousavi said, on December 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Its great to have some feedback on me/my work – not sure about making female history. In this century everyone seems to “talk loud” so I have tried to do the same for what I lost (my human rights or even my right to be human)? For some it is unbelievable what happened to me but it is still happening – maybe to someone you know. The expression of freedom always meets resistance just not always as agressive. My work is an expression of freedom for all kinds of women.

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