At 7pm on 5 March 2012, the Al M. Gallery in Kuwait City opened a new exhibition of paintings by Shurooq Amin that was scheduled to last until 1 April. The exhibit was closed three hours later by authorities who deemed the artworks “inappropriate”.
At about 9pm police, responding to a complaint, arrived and began questioning people in attendance. At 10pm officers from both the Ministries of Commerce and Interior arrived and inspected the paintings. They ordered the gallery owner to close the exhibition on the basis that the paintings were “pornographic” and “anti-Islamic.”
The censorship prompted an outpouring of support for Shurooq and for artistic freedom of expression.
Shurooq Amin is a conceptual/mixed-media artist, Anglophone poet, and professor at Kuwait University. Her paintings, which often explore taboo and controversial themes in contemporary Middle Eastern society, have been exhibited and collected all over the world.
The censored exhibition, ‘It’s a Man’s World,’ featured her most recent series of paintings
Kuwait: Freedom of Expression at a Glance
Kuwait society enjoys a great deal of freedom of expression, and ranks “first place among Gulf states in terms of respect for individual freedoms, and particularly in respect to press freedom” according to Reporters Without Borders. Still, “defamation” and “attacks on religion” remain punishable by criminal law, while criticisms of high-ranking politicians and royalty remain taboo.
In 2010, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information shut down Al-Jazeera’s offices in Kuwait and withdrew its local staff’s press accreditation, accusing the network of “meddling in internal affairs” after it broadcast footage of police crackdowns on opposition protests and interviewed opposition members.
Sampsonia Way | A Magazine on Literary Freedom of Expression – 2 April 2012:
Kuwaiti Artist Shurooq Amin On Shutdown of “It’s a Man’s World” Show
By Eoin Koepfinger