Tunisia's Islamist Minister of Culture Protests 'Blasphemous' Art

Analysis, posted 06.22.2012, from Tunisia, in:
Tunisia's Islamist Minister of Culture Protests 'Blasphemous' Art (Photo: Kaptialis)

Summary: Bouguerra's commentary piece rails against the Ennahdha party's reaction to recent ultra-conservative demonstrations against allegedly blasphemous artwork at the Al Abdellia Gallery. Bougerra, a Tunisian University professor, writes, "how can we maintain a straight face [garder son sérieux] when we [have[ heard the Minister of Culture promise a judicial investigation regarding certain works of art, or when he declares, as he did on Tuesday, June 12th, during a press conference held at the Palais du gouvernment in the Kasbah, 'We have also decided to press charges against the association that organized the exhibition, 'Springtime of the Arts' [Printemps des arts]’?”  Bouguerra continues sardonically, 'It is for this eminent man of culture that there exists - as he flung [assener] at us on Wednesday, June 13th, on [the radio station] Shems FM - paintings that 'attack the sacred.'"

Bouguerra continues, "But this Statesman who doubles as a man of culture that is our minister did not deign to enlighten us and define a bit of what this grave 'attack on the sacred' consists and which allegedly got a number of his very pious but also violent compatriots all worked up?"

Bouguerra alleges that the entire Al Abdellia affair is but a "vulgar pretext" or "subterfuge" that will allow Ennahdha "to legislate at their leisure the sacred and what is called 'attack on the sacred.,'" creating, he worries, "many, many articles of law incriminating from that moment on the smallest witticism or the most innocent mischievousness that art authorizes."

Bouguerra moves on to consider the potential contradictions between the budding governmental position and Tunisia's long history of art. "If now," Bouguerra muses, "photographing a woman with a nude back, painting an odalisque or diagramming the feminine genitals become material for condemnation, Mr. Minister will certainly have a lot to do. It would even be fear-inspiring, so immense is the task that awaits him [...] Because in our museums, there are many (and for how much more time, Mr. Minister?) status of bashful Vensues with naked breasts and their genitals hardly covered by a hesitant hand; numerous mosaics also where tritons romp about with beautiful naiads and other sensual nymphs and marine goddesses whose charms we had forgotten, in the past, to decently cover, along with the charms of many other beautiful and enigmatic Dianas [Goddess of the Hunt] wearing short garments..."

Original article by Mohamed Ridha Bouguerra