Explicit or Brave? Themes of Sex, Drugs and Alcohol in Kuwaiti Artist's Exhibit Prompt Govt Ban

Published January 21st, 2020 - 06:29 GMT
Explicit or Brave? Themes of Sex, Drugs and Alcohol in Kuwaiti Artist's Exhibit Prompt Govt Ban
Kuwaiti artist's exhibit is shut down after authorities deemed her work too inappropriate. (Shurooq Amin/ Twitter)

Kuwaiti authorities have shut down an art gallery exhibiting paintings of Kuwaiti artist Shurooq Amin. The move came after an official statement was issued stating the show at the Contemporary Art Platform CAP in Kuwait's capital hadn't been granted permission by the interior ministry.

In a talk with the publication Al-Qabas daily, the artist said the content of her paintings prompted the ban, recalling that her 2012 show was also shut down by the government.

The Kuwaiti public were split over the government's decision to shut down the exhibit. Many considered the move a violation of freedom of expression, while others supported it, saying that Amin's paintings were provocative and don't represent Kuwaiti values and traditions. 

Translation: "I don't understand the attack on Shurooq Amin's painting! Arts are basically supposed to shock societies and individuals. Who decides social values and norms? Art's main message is to break rules and everything people are used to."

Translation: "I feel sorry for people who didn't see anything beyond legs and bottles in these paintings. They need to work so hard to understand such a new and different idea that tries to break taboos in a society controlled by fear, hypocrisy, double standards and paradoxes."

Shurooq Amin who introduces herself in her Instagram bio as a truth-teller said that her art symbolically depicts social phenomena and attempts to engage in conversations about them, instead of judging or labeling them. 

Translation: "Shurooq's paintings aren't meaningless. Rather, she addresses issues like pollution, child marriage, arranged marriage, infidelity, homosexual relationships, and many other social topics and taboos. They are terrified of seeing a fearless woman discussing such serious issues."

Translation: "There are different artistic techniques, and I think Shurooq used satire and grotesque, aiming to provoke people on the other end, by portraying social topics in a way that some people will perceive as cliché or bold, attempting to protest the cliché and bold nature of these perceptions in the first place. Arts have to disturb, provoke and slap the audience to make them think."

People supporting the ban expressed a discomfort with Amin's paintings, saying that it addressed topics that offend the Kuwaiti society and don't represent it, like sex, alcohol, drugs, and others, calling on her to use her art to 'represent the positive side' of the Kuwaiti society.

Translation: "Since art is a mission, wasn't she supposed to focus on the positive side of our societies? Even if she wanted to highlight the negative one, she should have depicted issues like unemployment, spinsterhood or nepotism. Maybe her ideas can contribute to elevating the quality of education or health, that's how you communicate a message."

Translation: "Shurooq is truly talented but her paintings are against the law because they violate our values, yet she insists to create these paintings even after her 2012 gallery was shut down only 3 hours after the opening for the same reasons. This is not her first time."

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