“No Freedom! No Expression”: artists hijack art gallery

A group of artists hijacked a joint National Art Gallery and Japan Foundation exhibition on Tuesday, to call attention to alleged abuse of fundamental rights and freedoms since the controversial transfer of power on February 7

The exhibition, titled “Breathing Atolls: Japan-Maldives Contemporary Art Exhibition 2012,” celebrates 45 years of friendship between Japan and the Maldives and highlights the impact of climate change in small island nations.

The campaigners, who call themselves the ‘Suntzu Platoon’, silently tailed the Tourism and Foreign ministers holding placards depicting scenes of police brutality.

“We hoped to gain empathy from Japan for Maldivian artists,” a spokesperson from Suntzu said. “Japan is still recovering from a national scale disaster [2011 earthquake]. We are in the midst of one. We live in a police state. They are beating up people. We wanted Japan to extend us that cultural sensitivity.”

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told Minivan News he did not agree with the campaigners’ calls. “They were saying we do not have freedom of expression. I do not agree. Their claims have no basis,” he said.

“No Freedom! No Expression!”

Suntzu’s spokesperson, who wished to remain anonymous, told Minivan News that the group wanted to reveal the interconnection between politics and art. “No Freedom! No Expression!” read the group’s flyer distributed at the exhibition.

“We were just four people,” she said. “We went there with 12 placards and 50 flyers. Many visitors to the gallery agreed with our message and took up the placards. It was very spontaneous.”

The Suntzu platoon alleges the February 7 transfer of power was a coup d’état. “Maldivian Artists suppressed under illegitimate government protests for the freedom to express,” Suntzu’s flyer read.

Under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom local artists had not been able to utilize the gallery to exhibit local work, Suntzu claimed. Under recently ousted President Mohamed Nasheed, very slight improvements had been made, with a few selected local artists’ work exhibited and an elementary system that allowed artists to request the space set in place.

“We wanted to tell Maldivian visitors that art is not just an oil painting hanging on a gallery wall or a commodity for tourists. Politics and art are not separate segments. Politics allows you to tweet or watch TV series at home in comfort,” Suntzu spokesperson added.

Photos and videos show campaigners tailing ministers, at times cornering them with brutality placards. The placards also called for early general elections to restore order. Police initially expelled one campaigner tailing Adeeb only to let him into the gallery a few minutes later.

“We did not organize this exhibition. It was organized by the Japan Foundation,” Adeeb said. “These types of actions taint Maldives’ name. Artists have freedom. They have the freedom to protest as well.”

Urban Art Intervention

Despite Adeeb’s assurances of freedom of expression, Suntzu pointed to the security forces’ dismantling of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s protest camp at Raalhugandu (Surf Point) in Malé on Monday.

The site, known to MDP supporters as Insaafuge Maidhaan, was an “urban artistic intervention,” a Suntzu spokesperson said. “We saw types of art never seen before in the Maldives.”

Police dismantled the camp after violent confrontations between security forces and protestors on Monday. Protestors sought to obstruct President Mohamed Waheed Hassan from delivering a constitutionally-mandated address at the Majlis’ opening session for the second time, claiming his presidency was illegitimate.

Police said violence and unlawful acts were planned at the camp. Alcohol and condoms were also found at the site, police said.

Suntzu said the police also took down an exhibition against police brutality and wiped out political graffiti drawn on the sea wall. Insaafuge Maidhan was also home to unconventional art, such as performance artists, Suntzu said.

A man, who had come to Malé after February 7, had waved the MDP flag every night from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am in protest. “He may not see himself as an artist. But to us, he is one,” Suntzu spokesperson said.

“After they destroyed art at Insaaf, the next day they hold a gallery opening. Such acts are a smokescreen masking reality,” she said.

The police “want to wipe out the entire yellow spectrum [MDP]. But they are fighting against an ideology. They may destroy Haruge [MDP camp], but they cannot wipe out an idea.”

Suntzu Platoon’s flyer also said: “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.”

Breathing Atolls exhibits the work of eight artists, of which two are Maldivian and six are Japanese. Artists took inspiration from the geographically and culturally distinct atolls of the Maldives to highlight the risk of submersion due to rising sea levels.

The exhibition will be showing from March 20 through April 19 at the National Art Gallery.


17 thoughts on ““No Freedom! No Expression”: artists hijack art gallery”

  1. Mr Adheeb the idiot burger does not have a clue about what he is doing there. Come on you are the minister of arts and culture too. You could have been creative and stood up for yourself but you chose the police escort and run from some harmless artists. Everyone can see through you buddy.

  2. Hehe. It was pretty awesome how Adheeb handled the situation without losing his cool.

    If it had been one of the MDP ministers in Adheeb's place, they probably would have lost their cool and evicted the 4 idiots trying to tarnish Maldives name by calling security.

    But it was pretty awesome how Adheeb tolerated the protestors.

    This is proof that what the MDP protestors were advocating was indeed untrue, they did have the freedom to express their views and opinions and it was this freedom to express their opinion that the photograph above represents. (Ie: Adheeb in a photo with 4 idiots in the back holding posters. Hats off to Adheeb for his display of brilliance. We are proud of you adheeb.

    Too much freedom is however not good. I think the foriegn delegates must have been scared by the MDP idiots actions and their erratic behavior, acting like drug addicts and parteys.

  3. Adheeb! Do not pretend that your having a phone call. Lol. Came out finally .haha. Good minister 😛

  4. MDP stole some Police uniforms. This was on news a few weeks ago.
    Now they are using those uniforms to take the kind of pictures they want to show to the public and also the international community.

    The poster the man in this video is holding shows one such picture.

    Such pictures can be used to mislead some. But most Maldivians are well aware of these cheap tactics MDP use.

  5. Concerned said Bandit Adeeb did not loose his cool. See his breathing rate. Him PRETENTING a phone call. Hah hah. I remember what Adeeb did in Sri Lanka in the name of studying. I saw what he smoked.

  6. MDP can steal uniforms, guns, drugs, beer cans, u name it.. when ever they want! whats the police doing??? O please bhagees, shame on you fool! so long until 2013

  7. you are talking of freedom of expression ? this MDP gangs were allowed inside the gallery with thier posters and that was a close door function but Tourism ministry never rejected them ? what better democracy you can have.

    If this had happened during Anni era, people would have been beaten then and there and no one will be allowed to express thier views except Anni views.

  8. The so called 'artists' are not mocking adheeb or govt but the work of artists displayed in the exhibition.
    Shame MDP has to go to this extent, real signs of desperation!

  9. "Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told Minivan News he did not agree with the campaigners’ calls. “They were saying we do not have freedom of expression. I do not agree. Their claims have no basis,” he said."

    Really funny!

    Police here Police there and Police everywhere! ????????? What a state!!!!!!

  10. Artists have been at the forefront of many a movements,and what better cause to fight for than the call of freedom. maldives has become a police state now,no matter how much one might not like Nasheed atleast we have to admit the fact that the guy didn't run a police state and we were able to live free.

  11. @ nisha Well said! I second that. There is so much talent in the Maldives. We cannot let it go to waste. It was beginning to thrive in the last few years. Its so easy to equate that with easy, lazy living, but art is a discipline of the highest order, just as poetry is. Creativity is inspired from within and it needs freedom to flourish. That is why the unimaginative resort to brute force or dogma: they are driven by the antithesis of freedom: fear, the fear of losing power.They are the ones who will criticise talent, they are full of the fear of the unknown.

  12. whre were the Suntzu clan when theyre was no art> farting the baked beans or throwing it out in vomit? and the noble brother of bagee waheed.. drew a hefty salary to promote his own art...? very good developmen for all artist yea...

  13. there was a good energy in teh last years which has gone completely now.. it will take years to restore the stability for culture and art to flourish now

  14. police guards wearing those stupid vast says it all. i think those pictures says it all..

    as for the protesters... way to go guys. you did not disrespect the artists.. you were silent and polite. you did not touch the art nor the artists.. you simply had your placards and stood behind two terrorists..

  15. as someone present at the opening ceremony I can say it was a silent protest by these people. they allowed the ceremony to go as planned.

    It was not an invitee only event. it was open to public!

    the protesters simply protested against the baagees present there, namely adeeb, samad, and co.

    we saw how police intervened that night and tried to corner the protesters. even the police had no clue what they were doing there. as seen on the video they called someone on phone and asked what to do next.

    it can be easily seen the Maldives is a police state now.
    now is the time for all of us to stand up and say NO baagees.


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