One week after an exhibition by the provocative artist Shurooq Amin opened in Kuwait, the Kuwaiti authorities shut it down, claiming that her work was offensive to Kuwaiti society.
With images combining women in bikinis, women in conservative Muslim dress, and men consuming alcohol, the exhibit prodded and poked at what liberal Kuwaitis feel are fundamental hypocrisies underlying their society. The Ministries of the Interior and of Information shuttered the exhibition.
Artists in Kuwait, a country long considered a bastion of cultural and press freedom in the Arab region and one of the most open Gulf societies, say that the walls are moving in on them.
“There is a decline in freedoms; every new decade we lose more freedoms, until we have reached the narrowest limit now,” said Ahmed Fouad al-Shatti, chairman of the Arab Theater Board, an independent theatrical group.
He said that artists could express their opinions in their work much more freely in the 1960s and 1970s than they can now. “New laws were passed to further restrict freedom of creativity in Kuwait instead of protecting freedom of expression,” he added. (Since 2013, many new laws have been passed to regulate both traditional and social media.)
Art About the Forbidden
Shurooq Amin was first female Kuwaiti artist to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, arguably the world’s premier art event. She was also the first female Kuwaiti artist to be auctioned at Christie’s, and has had 15 solo art exhibitions internationally.