BISHKEK/Dec. 3 (The Bulletin) –Mira Dzhangaracheva, the director of Kyrgyzstan’s National Museum of Fine Arts, said that she had resigned her position after receiving deaths threats links to a feminist exhibition.
The exhibition, called Feminale, which has been shown in the museum since Nov. 28, has shocked most ordinary Kyrgyz. Dedicated to the 17 Kyrgyz migrant women workers who died in a fire in 2016 at the Moscow printing house they were working in, the exhibition’s organisers said that their mission was to promote women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan’s staunchly macho and conservative society.
Exhibits included a boxing punch bag shaped like the torso of a woman, a Danish performance artist wandering around a room naked and various references to nudity.
But while the show has earned praise from Bishkek’s younger, liberal-minded millennials, it has also generated criticism. Delegations of Kyrgyz elders have visited government offices to demand that the show is closed. Employees of the museum and artists, including Ms Dzhangaracheva, said that they have received death threats.
The government stepped in and removed some of the more provocative exhibits, the ones it said showed “nude women in a temple of art”.
Now, Ms Dzhangaracheva , the National Fine Art Museum director, has said that it is safer for her to quit rather than try to see off the conservatives who she said have stymied artistic expression in Kyrgyzstan.
“Over the past five days there have been so many threats to me personally and my employees and to the organisers of this Feminale that I worry about our people,” she told the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website in an interview.
Women, gay and minorities’ rights in Kyrgyzstan have been worsening according to activists.
Human Rights Watch said of the government’s decision to block part of the Feminale exhibition: “Rather than limiting public access to thought-provoking art, the Kyrgyz government should protect its creators against threats of violence and support freedom of expression, including about women’s rights.”
— This story was first published in issue 431 of the weekly Bulletin on Dec. 9 2019
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