Nepal: Death threats against artist who painted Hindu deities

17 September 2012

Manish Harijan, a Nepali artist, whose works are on show at an art gallery in Kathmandu, has received death threats from activists of the Nepal-based World Hindu Federation in reaction to his paintings which combine images of Hindu deities and Western superheroes, reported UNESCO on 14 September 2012.

In particular, a painting by Manish Harijan depicting a fusion of Hindu Goddess dressed as Western superhero Supergirl and showing her middle finger has become centre of the row in Nepal.

Axel Plathe, head of the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu, was quoted as saying: “The right to freedom of expression must also apply to artistic expression. Tension that may arise between artistic creation and religious and ethical values should be openly discussed instead of becoming subject of intimidation or even death threats to the artist.”

In a statement on, the United Nations’ organisation wrote:

“UNESCO firmly believes that art has always driven change and must be given the liberty to inspire new thinking. Therefore, UNESCO is committed to ensuring that artists are guaranteed this freedom.

Freedom of artistic expression is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

Freedom of expression and communication is the essential prerequisite for all artistic activities. According to the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, adopted by UNESCO in 1980, Member States should ensure that artists are unequivocally accorded the protection provided for freedom of expression by international and national legislation concerning human rights.

However, freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, as affirmed in a landmark decision of UNESCO’s Executive Board in 2006 (174 EX/Decision 46) on respect for freedom of expression and respect for sacred beliefs and values and religious and cultural symbols.”


UNESCO – 14 September 2012:
UNESCO concerned by death threats against Nepali artist


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