Days before the scheduled opening of his retrospective “Signed but not Burnt” on July 17 at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA) in Noida, Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam has withdrawn from the exhibition. “As an artist, journalist and human rights worker, I wish to express solidarity with the artists who note that in India ‘government-run cultural institutions have become instruments of state-sponsored propaganda rather than spaces for critical thinking’. The situation is no different in my own country Bangladesh… There are two areas of concern. The clear endorsement by Ms Nadar of art events which are part of the propaganda machinery of the current Indian regime, and the censure of people who make legitimate critiques of such associations,” stated Alam to The Indian Express, sharing excerpts from his letter to Kiran Nadar on the withdrawal.
The celebrated photographer’s statement refers to Nadar’s involvement as advisor for the exhibition “Jana Shakti: A Collective Power” at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, which marked 100 episodes of ‘Mann Ki Baat’, a monthly radio address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It also refers to the termination of Sandip K Luis from the post of Manager, Curatorial Research and Publications, at the KNMA, following his statement on social media, posted on May 15, that was deemed critical of the exhibition and Nadar’s association with it.
While the KNMA refrained from commenting on Alam’s exhibition and Luis’ termination, several members of the art fraternity have expressed solidarity with the latter.
“To dismiss a museum employee for a…post made in his individual capacity points to a high-handed way of functioning…” reads an excerpt from the statement issued by “concerned individuals” on Kafila portal.
(With inputs by Sabika Syed)