Topless women, dead octopus and body paint: an art exhibition sparks controversy

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 5.16.32 PM

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.”

Likes(1)Dislikes(0)

Thousands sign petition over resort workers’ pay, conditions

A petition calling for sweeping changes to resort employees’ working conditions and a minimum wage has collected two thousand signatures during its first five days.

The Tourism Employees’ Association of Maldives, which launched the petition, said it had amassed signatures from workers on 17 resorts since last Wednesday.

“Signing for new hopes and rights,” the group said on its Facebook page. “Keep going [with] the great work of humankind.”

The petition demands a minimum monthly wage of US $600 across the sector through an amendment to the Employment Act.

There is currently no minimum wage and the petition says that wage rates have not increased in the sector for 10 years.

The workers are also asking for quotas to require 80 per cent of tourism employees in the country to be Maldivian, which would require big changes in the hiring practices of resorts.

Current laws require 50 per cent of resort employees to be Maldivians, but the rule is not widely enforced. The sector employs some 11,426 Maldivians and 16,342 expatriate workers, meaning that overseas employees constitute 59 per cent, according to preliminary figures for the 2014 census.

TEAM also wants the president to honour a pledge to make shares in resorts available to their rank-and-file employees, a rarity in a country where resorts are generally owned by private companies controlled by a few individuals.

In February 2014 President Abdulla Yameen said that by the end of the year, a number of resorts would be floating a portion of their shares to the public, and urged Maldivian employees to become stakeholders.

The president said that share ownership would be a “lucrative addition to their current income from salary and other perks through employment at these resorts”, according to a press release issued at the time.

Speaking at the opening of the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi resort, Yameen also said the Sun Travel resort group would float up to 40 percent of its shares to employees in the coming years.

However, the pledge of shares for resort employees has not so far become a reality.

The petition also asks for a 12 per cent service charge to be applied and for 99 per cent of that to be distributed “fairly” among tourism employees, as set out in the Employment Act.

TEAM’s supporters are seeking the right to form a union, as set out in the constitution, and the right to protest in resorts, which was banned in 2012 under the Freedom of Assembly Act.

The law says that protests can only be held in resorts and in air and sea ports after a special permit from the police based on the advice of the military, but TEAM cites the constitution’s guarantee of the right to peaceful protest.

Over the past few years, resort workers have occasionally tried to launch protests.

Workers who had been fired from Sheraton’s Maldives luxury resort for demanding union recognition protested near the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa in February, according to the website of the International Union Federation.

Carrying banners with slogans such as “Sheraton fully booked — no room for human rights”, the dismissed workers carried out a boat picket around the resort, while employees came to the beach and waved in support.

In February 2013, an employee strike in Vaavu Atoll Alimathaa resort resulted in 27 employees being fired by management.

According to Haveeru, Ahmed Adeeb, the tourism minister, said at the time that protests in resorts would affect tourists both directly and indirectly.

“Such things must not be encouraged by anyone. Especially when it is something banned by law, it must not happen. No one should encourage or give room for such things,” Adeeb said.

Officials from the Tourism Ministry were unavailable for comment at the time of press.

On Thursday, about 50 employees from the international airport in Seenu atoll Gan protested over a new salary structure which they said would result in lower pay than before. They stopped protesting when management agreed to return to the previous wage structure.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)