Serbia: Row over art exhibition depicting Jesus

8 October 2012

Serbia’s prime minister said an art exhibition by the Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin featuring controversial images of Jesus was a ‘provocation’ that contributed to a ban on Belgrade’s gay parade.

The Serbian Interior Ministry banned a pride parade in Belgrade for security reasons for the second year running, after ultranationalists had threatened the march, and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church condemned it. The patriarch also demanded that Prime Minister Ivica Dacic take steps to stop Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin’s exhibition, which he called ‘deeply insulting’.

The exhibition ‘Ecce homo’ by the Swedish artist, organized as part of the Belgrade Pride Week, features photographs portraying Jesus among homosexuals, transsexual people and people with AIDS.

Prime minister Ivica Dacic told the Beta news agency that the art show, which opened on 3 October 2012 under heavy police protection, was “a clear provocation that contributed a great deal to the ban on the pride” parade.

“This is not about freedom of expression, this is a direct provocation that can destabilize relations within the country. No one has the right to make fun of religious feelings,” Ivica Dacic was quoted as saying.

The prime minister also drew a comparison between the art exhibit and the US-made anti-Muslim film ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which sparked deadly protests across the Islamic world.

“Just imagine that we saw a caricature of Mohammed as a gay man,” he said.

About the artist
Elisabeth Ohlson, 51, is a Swedish photographer and an artist. In her works she often photographs representatives of sexual minorities. The scenes of ‘Ecce homo’ are modern versions of stories of the New Testament, such as Jesus riding a bicycle in a gay parade like in the Triumphal entry he rode to town with a donkey. With her works, Ohlson has wanted to remind people that Jesus worked with and helped the outcasts of the society. She had the idea when one of her friends died of AIDS in the early 1990s. The first Ecce homo exhibition was held in Stockholm in 1998 and has since then toured around the world.

AFP / The Local – 5 October 2012:
Swedish art ‘contributed’ to Serb pride parade ban

Advocate – 4 October 2012:
Transgender Jesus and LGBT Apostles Enrage Serbians

AFP / The Local – 3 October 2012:
Swede’s Jesus pics fuel Serb gay pride fury

Wikipedia – the open encyclopedia – about Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin:

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