A notable art show in Bangladesh has allegedly been disrupted by Chinese officials over a controversial Tibetan exhibit. After receiving a visit from the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka, the Dhaka Art Summit has censored the artwork in the exhibit with white sheets of paper.
The exhibit in question is called “Last Words,” literally featuring the last written words by five Tibetans who self-immolated to protest Chinese rule.
“The Chinese ambassador was offended when he saw the artworks,” said head of administration Sazzad Hossain, according to AFP. “He sent us a mail in protest and asked us to remove the works. And we’ve covered up the five works with white sheets.”
A fellow organizer of the summit also admitted to feeling threatened. “It was intimidating,” the organizer said, choosing to remain anonymous. “I, personally, have started to feel threatened since then.”
“Last Words” was put together by Indian filmmaker Ritu Sarin in collaboration with Tenzing Sonam, himself an exiled Tibetan.
“Naturally, we were upset and outraged by the Chinese demand,” expressed Sarin, who opted for the pieces to be censored rather than removed altogether. “At the same time, we did not want the Dhaka Art Summit to face the possibility of being shut down as we felt that the event provided an important platform for artistic exchange in South Asia.”
This isn’t the first time that Bangladesh has shut down a Tibetan exhibit at the alleged request of the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka. Back in 2009, police suddenly closed down a photo exhibition titled “‘Into Exile: Tibet 1949 – 2009” that featured rare photos of the Dalai Lama. The day before it was closed, organizers say that two Chinese officials visited and asked them to cancel the exhibition.
Similar incidents have occurred in recent years in countries around the world. In 2015, the Ecuadorian House of Culture abruptly decided to suspend activities at the National Theatre on the dates that the Falun Gong affiliated Shen Yun Performing Arts Company was to perform its dance show “The Monkey King.” Organizers blamed the Chinese Embassy’s influence for the canceled shows. In the past, China has made well-known their opinions on Shen Yun’s political leanings.
In 2008, organizers in Malaysia said that their dance performance containing acts alluding to Falun Gong was canceled at the request of the local Chinese Embassy.
Prominent Bangladeshi activist and mountaineer Wasfia Nazreen posted about the incident on her Facebook page and included the non-censored versions of the pictures along with translations:
[Images via Facebook]