One of Bangladesh’s biggest art shows has covered up an exhibit by Tibetan artists after the Chinese embassy in Dhaka said it was “offended” by the artwork, an organiser said yesterday.
A photographic exhibit entitled “Last Words”, featuring the letters of five Tibetans who self-immolated in protest at Chinese rule, was covered with white sheets at the Dhaka Art Summit.
The work belonged to Indian filmmaker Ritu Sarin and her husband Tenzing Sonam, a Tibetan living in exile, and were part of a larger multimedia installation on Tibetan self-immolations in the past six years.
“The Chinese ambassador was offended when he saw the artworks. 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,” Sazzad Hossain, head of administration at the Dhaka Art Summit, said.
Bangladesh is a staunch ally of China, which has bankrolled many of the impoverished nation’s key infrastructure projects.
“It was intimidating. I, personally, have started to feel threatened since then,” another organiser of the show said on condition of anonymity.
Filmmaker Sarin said that the artists had agreed to have the exhibit covered up rather than removed altogether.
“Naturally, we were upset and outraged by the Chinese demand,” she said.
“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.”
The Chinese embassy has yet to comment on the issue.
In 2009, Bangladeshi police also closed a photography exhibition on Tibet following complaints from Chinese diplomats.
Held at a state-run art gallery the Dhaka Art Summit is one of the most prestigious art shows in Bangladesh with about 300 South Asian artists participating.