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<nettime> Maldivian artists occupy the National Art Gallery
Florian Cramer on Wed, 21 Mar 2012 19:26:27 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Maldivian artists occupy the National Art Gallery

[In the West, there has been almost no public attention to the coup
d'etat in the Maldives, only four years after the first election of a
democratic government - and consequently no attention to the current
activism in the country. Please help spread the message and awareness.

Maldivian artists occupy the National Art Gallery
20 March 2012, Male', Maldives

42 days since the coup d'état, six years after the inauguration of the
country's first National Art Gallery tonight it was teeming with
silently protesting young local artists. Walking around with placards
depicting the recent gruesome police violence, the silent protestors
formed a mobile exhibition parallel to the official opening ceremony
of Breathing Atolls: Japan-Maldives Contemporary Art Exhibition. This
is the first art gallery opening since a military coup backed by the
former dictatorship brought down the first ever democratically elected
government. Afzal Shafiu and Ali Nishan the only two local artists
that were featured in the Breathing Atolls exhibition and the majority
of the visitors unanimously joined in with the demonstrating artists
in supporting their message:

"NO FREEDOM! NO EXPRESSION! Maldivian Artists suppressed under
illegitimate government protests for the freedom to express. Freedom
of Expression is a fundamental right, yet, a space for creative and
artistic flourishing has been denied to us violently and brutally by
this Police State. The continuing abuse of fundamental rights and
freedom must stop!"

Tonight, for the first time ever there was heavy police presence (in
riot gear) at the art gallery and surrounding compound attempting to
disperse the demonstrating artists and at times denying them entry
into the gallery. These artists demonstrated silently calling for an
end to police brutality and restoration of order through immediate
elections. International artists may not be aware of the current
relapse into repressive situation in the Maldives.

Since the coup violent crackdowns have begun, imposing an atmosphere
of fear and repression. Members of the general public including
political activists continue to be terrorized by the police and
defense forces on the street. Fear and repression by security forces,
as well as seeing old faces of dictator Gayyoom's regime back in power
marks a return to darker days of authoritarian rule that Maldivians
thought they had overcome during the last three years. These
developments treated to undo the huge gains made by the Maldives in
strengthening its infant democracy with daily onslaught of violence
unleashed upon citizens and violations of fundamental rights and

It is also noteworthy to mention that the Minister of Tourism, Foreign
Minister and the newly installed head of National Centre of Art, Ali
Waheed (coup president Dr.Waheed's brother) were escorted by police
personnel while viewing the artwork on display. On the other hand coup
president Dr.Waheed's younger brother Naushad Waheed (an artist
currently residing in the UK) is a vocal opponent condemning the coup
and calling his brother to step down.

Meanwhile just a few blocks away police were attacking and arresting
people peacefully protesting outside coup defense minister's residence
calling for an end to the ongoing state sponsored terrorism against
Maldivians. And a couple of hours earlier riot police brutally
dispersed a crowd gathered near the Justice Square protesting against
the coup.

Artists and artistic expression were systematically suppressed during
the dictatorship and art was never considered a medium for political
expression. It was simply commodified and sold as souvenirs for
tourists. But the young courageous artists tonight took one giant step
for all the artists in the nation.

for more information please visit: mvdemocracy.com

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