Oslo City Council has rejected a demand by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry to censor a painting by Kurdish artist Gelawêj Welidxanî. The painting is currently on exhibition in Oslo, Norway.
The painting by the Oslo based artist is called ‘Rojava: Women’s Revolution’. According to Özgür Politika, the painting has been on public display in Norway’s capital city since last November.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey was reportedly opposed to the painting being publicly seen in an exhibition that received support from the Municipality of Oslo. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement: “A painting that is supposedly related to ‘women’s rights’ but which serves as propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units (PKK/PYD/YPG) terrorist organizations was allowed to be displayed in a public open space as part of an activity sponsored by the Municipality of Oslo. This terrorist propaganda should be stopped immediately. We would like to remind those who tolerate terrorism that they, too, could be hit one day by this scourge”.
Oslo City Council Culture and Education Committee President Eivor Evenrud responded to the Turkish government’s demand through his social media account: ”Hello Turkey! In Norway, we believe in freedom of speech and democracy. Politicians cannot – and will not – change or remove a painting. Watch and learn. Greetings from the Standing Committee for Cultural Affairs, Oslo, Norway”.
‘Art should be free’
“The attitude of the City Council is very important in protecting freedom of artistic expression and exhibiting work. All artworks need to be uncensored and this is essential for a well-functioning democracy”, the Norwegian Visual Artists Association, the Young Artists Association and the Painters Association said in a joint statement.
Abdullah Öcalan has ‘made the revolution practical’
The Kurdish artist Gelawêj Waledxanî lives in Oslo. Waledxanî was born in the town of Xaneqîn in Iraqi Kurdistan and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. The painting ‘Rojava: Women’s Revolution’ has been on exhibition since 7 November 2020 in Oslo. Waledxanî emphasized that she was inspired by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan who, as an ideologist and writer, “made the revolution practical”. She tries to redefine the role of ‘Kurdish women in the struggle’ in her works.
Turkey previously pressurised the delegation of the European Union in 2016 to cut its financial support for the Dresden Symphony Orchestra, which had been scheduled to perform “Aghet,” a composition by Marc Sinan in memory of the Armenian genocide. However, several censorship attempts by Turkey aimed at banning numerous works including documentary screenings of films internationally – as well as other exhibitions related to the war in Syria – have failed.