3 December 2012

Namibia: Swakopmund Arts Association Threatens to Sue Newspapers

THE Swakopmund Arts Association says it turned down an exhibition request because the Woermannhaus gallery was not “technically” suitable and because of “spatial restraints”.

The Namibian published an article headlined ‘Arts association stops “political” exhibition’ in last Thursday’s edition. The article was based on a press statement issued by Imke Rust, whose request to exhibit works critical of mining and industrial developments in the coastal area was turned down.

The Swakopmund Arts Association says the article has caused it “substantial financial loss” and damaged its reputation and therefore is considering legal action against The Namibian and the Namib Times for publishing the articles.

An art exhibition by renowned photographer Tony Figuera that was to open on Saturday was cancelled because, according to the association, the artist “did not want to be associated with our views”.

Figuera said in a statement to The Namibian that his decision to cancel his exhibition was “based on my conversation with him [Dr Gustav Obermair, the chairperson of the association] after he confirmed that the debate against industrial development at the coast is indeed scientifically dubious and against the economically important uranium mining industry in Namibia”.

Figuera said his exhibition had been planned more a year ago and that the decision to cancel it was not taken “lightly”.

Figuera’s exhibition has been rescheduled and will start on December 16 at the Namibian Jewellers & Art cc in Swakopmund.

The Swakopmund Arts Association admitted that it turned down the Rust exhibition request partly because it did not want to add to the ongoing “emotional and partially unscientific” and “unobjective” environmental debate.

The exhibition was to include video screens.

“Our locality was rather unsuited for the proposed video installations, we don’t have the required video equipment,” the arts association said.

However, Rust said that in her proposal she provided detailed information about the content of the exhibition and since she had exhibited at the Woermannhaus on previous occasions, she knew the limitations of the gallery.

She said she would have done the video installation herself.

“The third reason was the fact that the exhibition addressed the ongoing discussion concerning uranium mining at the coast,” the arts association said.

It said that there was no provisional booking for the Rust exhibition as her request was already turned down in June this year. “We don’t make provisional bookings, we get a request, in this case first by telephone, then by email, we take a decision and if we take the exhibition on, the artist confirms, then there is a booking. We informed the artist in June of our decision not to show this particular exhibition,” the association said.

Rust said to her understanding the main reason for the refusal was because the exhibition addressed a politically charged topic.

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