A video of an art exhibition on violence against women, which depicted scantily clothed women with body paint and some posing with a dead octopus, has sparked controversy.
The project was commissioned in March by the vice-president of the Maldivian National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) Ismail Asif as part of his fourth annual exhibition on women and children’s rights.
The first half of the video shows female models, who work for the Austrian company WB Productions, at the National Art Gallery with traditional Maldivian dress painted on to their bodies.
The second half shows some models posing with a dead octopus on the beach while others posed topless with body paint and coir rope.
Maldives Art Gallery & Experimental Bodypainting Trip
Projects in the field of bodypainting is what we do. About 2 months ago we were invited to fill the Maldivian National Art Gallery with painted bodies. ///////////////////////More about the exhibition: In the week from 7th of march 2015 "WB Production" is invited with a team to the Maldives to be part of the Installation Art Project by Ismail Asif in the Maldives National Art Gallery. It's his 4th annual exhibition about "Abuse of woman and children" in his country.It's also the first time he incorporated Bodypainting into his art. The design of the Bodypainting was taken from the Dhivehi Libaas, the traditional Maldivian dress, elaborately adorned with a gold and silver neckline called Kasabu Bovalhu.Every day protests out on the streets against the government were almost knocking the plan of an indeed nervous looking Mr. Asif off.The team of WB Production with Alex and Anna Barendregt, Aga Glińska, Anna Tuzańska and Vitaliya Abramova is very thankful to be part of this great experimental trip and very glad that the exhibition in the end did happen. WHAT A trip ;)www.wb-production.com
Posted by WB Production – event.lifestyle.media on Wednesday, May 20, 2015
The video was uploaded on May 20 on Facebook and has been viewed more than 53,000 times.
CEO of WB production Alex Barendregt said: “Our team was able to be part of a very intense art exhibition in the Maldivian art gallery. Why intense? Because for the first time we did incorporate body painting in a very strict conservative Muslim country.”
Many praised Asif for the controversial exhibition, but others said the video contained “pornographic material.” Some censured Asif for what they called double standards, claiming he had criticized former president Mohamed Nasheed’s government for allegedly secular policies.
Asif was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
“Great work. Nice to see the artist who was happily branding the jailed president Mohamed Nasheed’s government as un-Islamic taking the daring step to hold a body painting exhibition in Malé’s Art Gallery. Sadly even for watching this video us mere locals would be arrested and charged with having pornographic material,” Munshid Mohamed said on Facebook.
Nasheed is currently serving a 13-year jail term on terrorism charges. His trial was widely criticized for lack of due process and triggered daily anti-government protests for three months.
Another expressed concern over the national gallery allowing Asif to hold an exhibition that “pushed public norms of decency,” despite having rejected art work by Maldivian students depicting Nasheed as a hero for an exhibition on the country’s golden jubilee of independence.
One asked: “What would have happened if this had happened during president Nasheed’s time?” Many of Nasheed’s supporters feel his opponents unfairly targeted them by branding them as un-Islamic.
Others expressed concern over artists using an octopus in the photos, to which WB productions replied: “Don’t worry, it was a dead octopus from the market, and later one of our friends took him home to cook as millions other people do.”
A supporter of the exhibition, Faiyal Ahmed said: “Nice stuff, if this is what locals are calling shooting a porn video I think we should educate them more.”