In-depth article collection: ‘All that is banned is desired’

25 March 2013

A series of commissioned in-depth articles produced for to provide an overview of violations of artistic freedom of expression in certain countries, and to feature stories as well as interviews with artists, who have been persecuted or experienced that their art works were censored or attacked.

All nine articles are gathered in one PDF document – for print, download or distribution – here:


Below, the articles are listed one by one — with individual PDF documents for download / print for each of them:

Sun Mu – the faceless painter

This article in PDF

Sun Mu is not his actual name. It’s a nom de plume that uses a combination of two Korean words that translate to ‘The Absence of Borders’. It not only represents what he feels is the transcendence of art but also the literal military demarcation line that keeps the Korean people separated.

By Jason Strother       • PDF | Webpage

Tunisia’s ground zero for creative freedom

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The ‘Nadia Jelassi’ affair has become a stake, a symbol of the successful democratic transition of the Tunisian revolution, and could represent ground zero for individual freedoms in the country that in late 2010 sparked off a world geopolitical earthquake.

By Kerim Bouzouita       • PDF | Webpage

Symbols into soldiers:
Art, censorship, and religion

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Notwithstanding almost two and a half centuries of separation of church and state, religious groups in the US have never given up the desire to impose their values and beliefs on society at large. Controversies around art with religious content persist with some regularity, generally spurred by private religious groups or conservative – or just sensation-seeking – media. The groups protesting an artwork are invariably small, but their strident voice is amplified by media coverage and somehow becomes representative even though it may not be.

By Svetlana Mintcheva       • PDF | Webpage

The rise and ‘ban’ of the collateral

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How a young Nepali painters’ works raised questions on artistic freedom in Kathmandu, the City of Temples.

By Kanchan G. Burathoki       • PDF | Webpage

The invisible red line – maneuvering Chinese art censorship

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Art can both reflect and shape reality. It is the fear of this power to amplify and produce meaning which inspires censorship. In their quest for freedom of expression, Chinese artists have had to face a variety of censorship strategies. Some are rooted in politics, while others hold to conservative moral and aesthetic codes. This paper refers to specific art works, artists and exhibitions, discussing how the current threshold of acceptability is being challenged by Chinese artists.

By Si Han       • PDF | Webpage

Fear, threats and self-censorship among Syrian rappers

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Syrian rappers are split about how to engage in the fronts of an uprising that have turned to civil war. President Bashar al-Assad’s fear-based society is making everyone think twice.

Refugees of Rap, a group of rappers from the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Syria, has a new album ready for release about a Syrian revolution they thought would have materialised in 2011. But with the escalating violence, they hold back, afraid of retaliation from the Syrian government. Al Sayyed Darwish from Homs has moved to Lebanon to release a pro-revolution album of his group Latlateh there. So has Assasi Non Fuse from Aleppo, but he has his politics turned down, while Sham MCs in Damascus are attempting to party the war away.

By Janne Louise Andersen       • PDF | Webpage

Mali: The day the music stopped

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“We do not want Satan’s music,” said an Islamist spokesman as he banned the broadcasting of all western music from his stronghold in Gao, a city that finds itself within the most literal and brutal Sharia jurisdiction in the world today; the ‘red zone’ in northern Mali. The region is also home to the world-renowned ‘Festival in the Desert’ whose director Manny Ansar remains confident that no one can kill Malian music. “We’re dealing with people who don’t know what they’re doing and who won’t win,” he told journalist Andy Morgan.

By Andy Morgan       • PDF | Webpage

Iranian musician responds upright to death threats

This article in PDF

This interview with Shahin Najafi and Günter Wallraff took place five months after a fatwa – a death sentence – was issued against the singer and rapper Shahin Najafi. It proclaimed him an apostate for recording the rap-song ‘Ay Naghi’ and sentenced him to death under Islamic law. The assault ensured that the name ‘Shahin Najafi’ is now better known around the world than that of many other Iranian musician in exile. But this wasn’t of any great help to his artistic career.

By Elke Safaei-Rad       • PDF | Webpage

Syria: Art, creative resistance and active citizenship

This article in PDF

The links between creative resistance and active citizenship, art and civic conscience have been a strong component of the Syrian uprising. Finally, citizens have turned into peer-creators and users, who have now the tools to express their creativity.  

By Donatella Della Ratta       • PDF | Webpage


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