Women-only artwork causes controversy
Tue, 28 Aug 2012 10:02p.m.
By Laura Frykberg
Wellington’s Dowse Art Museum will press ahead with an artist's wish to only allow women to see her work, despite complaints to the Human Rights Commission.
The short film For Your Eyes Only by Qatar-based filmmaker Sophia al-Maria is shot in the female-only quarters in Qatar, and shows women without their Muslim veils.
It’s a part of Muslim life that men never see, and so when it's shown here it will be in a special viewing area for women - and small children - only.
“This is a part of society which men wouldn't be involved in in reality, so the artist and the gallery have decided its presentation should follow the same rules,” says Dowse Museum director Cam McCracken.
But the ban has put the gallery offside with some Lower Hutt locals - the Human Rights Commission has confirmed it has received seven complaints about the exhibition, and it could breach the Human Rights Act through sex discrimination, but it can't actually assess that until next week when the exhibition opens.
The Dowse is no stranger to controversy - earlier this year an exhibit featuring water used to wash dead bodies was withdrawn after objections from local Maori, but the museum's director says this time it's not backing down.
“The dialogue has made me more determined than ever to screen this work,” says Mr McCracken. “We think the work is really poignant and really topical.”
The president of the New Zealand Islamic Association agrees, and says the complaints are ridiculous.
“There shouldn't be any issue whatsoever, there are a lot of things in this country which we have exclusively for one gender or the other, such as the gym exclusively for women,” says Dr Anwar Ghani.
Ms al-Maria once said the further the work goes from its home, the more important its message becomes.
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6/09/2012 6:19:26 p.m.
John Kantor wrote:
What it highlights is how sick societies control women.
5/09/2012 9:00:55 p.m.
cecilia carter wrote:
So this Cameron Director of Dowse Museum decided whats right for us to see and not to see ?? WOW! dictatorship discrimination? clearly it does! GALLERY?? PUBLIC ? BUT LIMITED?? COME ON!! Is this FREE Society??? clearly not according to CAMERON from DOWSE ART MUSEUM he has to choose that only women can see this exhibition!! give me a break!!!
5/09/2012 7:15:14 p.m.
other cultures have to obey nz laws right? so lets be fair on both genders and not show this exibition
30/08/2012 4:00:00 p.m.
We can respect their culture yes, but not when it infringes rules as laid out in ours. When in Rome do as the Romans. When Western women go to Qatar there are all sorts of rules they will have to follow to avoid a flogging. Would the rules change because the woman is Western, or would she have to follow rules as laid out in that country? In NZ a visitor or immigrant should follow NZ rules as far as human rights. We pride ourselves on equality and a lack of discrimination. We don't need to import someone elses discrimination rules into our country. If that person has a problem with not being able to go by our rules and customs, that person should leave their art of photos back in Quatar where it will be safe behind their antiquated rules and lack of equality. Having said all that, there is a case I guess that because our society is so understanding, open and modern compared to Qatar, we are grown up enough to recognize that other countries and infantile in their rules and regulations, and we have the ability to bend and be flexible where they can't. But then again are we not supporting these old and unjust cultures by allowing this sort of thing to go on in our country, and should we not be boycotting such things ratehr than supporting them.
29/08/2012 9:10:07 a.m.
For me it comes down to what the women in the film want. If they were filmed with any sort of assurance, explicit or implied, that the film would only be viewed by women and children then so be it. We should respect that condition and move on. If the women specifically said they are willing for men to see the film then it should be completely open. If it's not clear then go back to those women and ask. We do live in an infomration age, it wouldn't take that long to find out their wishes on the matter.
29/08/2012 7:30:42 a.m.
The Dowse has to be careful what they wish for. Separatism and sexism might be ok in Qatar, but we should never condone or support any sort of exclusive behaviour in New Zealand based on race, religion or sex. We have enough issues as it is, without someone trying to find some new limit of acceptability and/or shock value.
28/08/2012 11:46:50 p.m.
I don't see any problem with having a women exclusive gallery. In fact, this is a very interesting idea.
You have to understand though, that it is part of the Muslim life, and the women probably unveiled themselves on the assurance that men would not see them. Even though I am male, and am intrigued to see what she has in her gallery, I have to respect them and their culture.
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