Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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This Week's Featured Case


Artist: Newsha Tavakolian

Year: 2016

Date of Action: June 2016

Region: Middle East

Location: Singapore

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Photography

Confronting Bodies: Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore

Description of Artwork: 'I Know Why The Rebel Sings' presented highlights from a range of works by Iranian documentary photographer Newsha Tavakolian. It included photographs from her series, 'Look,' 'Listen,' and "The Blank Pages Of An Iranian Photo Album," as well as previously unexhibited images of humanitarian tragedies around the world with a focus on the portrait. The exhibition was part of Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA)'s pre-festival, O.P.E.N. public engagement initiative ("Open, Participate, Engage, Negotiate"). SIFA is the premier national performing arts festival in the country. Tavakolian, best known for her iconic photographs of struggle and conflict, is a member of Magnum Photos and has shot for publications such as National Geographic.

The Incident: When the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore initially refused to grant permits for 33 of the photos, the Festival Director Ong Keng Sen and the show's curator, Vali Mahlouji, agreed on a smaller selection to be exhibited. But before opening night, the MDA censored 15 of a larger group of photographs hung against a backdrop of a map of the conflict region, replacing each with a black paper rectangle. The photos belong to the series 'On the War Trail,' depicting photos of Kurdish female soldiers fighting ISIS that are part of the YPJ, an all-woman offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party which the Turkish government (along with United States, Japan and Australia, and several other countries) considers a terrorist organisation. The photographs were commissioned by Time Magazine. Festival director Sen issued a statement condemning MDA's move, pointing out that the photographs were already published in Time Magazine and were widely accessible both online and off. "And so we are living with a new terror where we don't know, it is out of our control," he said at the exhibition's launch. [from "Ong Keng Sen on censorship at Newsha Tavakolian's I Know Why the Rebel Sings," June 22, 2016]

Results of Incident: The show remained up for the duration with the blacked-out photographs.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/removed-images-photographer-deeply-disappointed

Statements from Newsha Tavakolian and Ong Keng Sen on censorship, by Ng Yi-Sheng, July 02, 2016

'i know why the rebel sings', June 24, 2016

I Know Why the Rebel Sings, by Newsha Tavakolian, by Ng Yi-Sheng, June 23, 2016

I Know Why The Rebel Sings – SIFA: The O.P.E.N. 2016, June 23, 2016

Ong Keng Sen on censorship at Newsha Tavakolian's I Know Why the Rebel Sings, by Ng Yi-Sheng, June 22, 2016

Newsha Tavakolian Photography

Newsha Tavakolian on Magnum Photos

Newsha Tavakolian, Instagram

Newsha Tavakolian, Wikipedia

What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

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