September 25, 2001 - Museum of Civilization, Hull - THE ‘POSTPONEMENT’ OF EXHIBITION ON ARAB-CANADIAN ART
September 25, 2001

THE ‘POSTPONEMENT’ OF EXHIBITION ON ARAB-CANADIAN ART

THE 'POSTPONEMENT' OF EXHIBITION ON ARAB-CANADIAN ART

Museum of Civilization, Hull

“Ces pays qui m’habitent/ The Lands Within Me”, presenting the work of thirty Arab-Canadian artists at the Museum of Civilization, Hull, is to be “postponed” until further notice. As participants in the exhibition, we voice our concern and outrage at this decision which was received this week with very short notice. The planned opening date  was Oct. 28th.

Exhibition preparations have been going on for five years. We have no doubt that the tragic events that took place on the September 11th in New York and Washington are in direct correspondence to the decision. A few days prior to that the Museum sent all the artists letters requesting a list of invitees and affirming the opening date (copies available upon request).

We believe that the decision was a political one. It is unfortunate that in this time of backlashes and a rise of racist attacks against members of our community, a federal government institution (one of the largest public museums in Canada) is assuming such an unproductive and unsupportive position. 

In the midst of this recent wave of racism and intolerance governmental agencies and politicians are conducting various campaigns of cultural awareness and tolerance. It is troubling that the Museum of Civilization is taking exactly the opposite stance. It is postponing an important and unique cultural event that has the potential to counteract some of the prejudices that our community has so long endured.

The Museum has indicated that the purpose of the postponement is to provide a “context” for the exhibition in light of anti-Arab sentiment following the attacks on the U.S. on September 11th. We stress that this kind of “spin control” actually encourages such a sentiment by anticipating a racist response from the audience.

We firmly believe that cultural events such as this have a important educational and humanitarian role, and that they are needed at times like this more then ever. By postponing or canceling such an important exhibition, the Museum sends a message with grave implications, for example;

1) that any event involving Arab culture needs to be “spin-controlled”.

2) that any present or future event conducted by or for the Arab-Canadian community is liable to be a security risk.

3) the assumption that all Canadians hold a position of antagonism towards the Arab-Canadian community, hence the risk of low attendance.

4) or simply the assumption could be made that bias, punitive, and racist collective measures have been approved by the Museum of Civilization’s board of directors.

We believe that the Museum needs to stand up and show support for the Arab-Canadian community and to exhibit the exemplary art works made by Arab-Canadian artists. This will help bridge the divide between Canadians and will assist in bringing about an understanding between the Arab-Canadian and other communities. WE ASK THAT THE MUSEUM OF CIVILIZATION RECONSIDER THE ‘POSTPONEMENT’ OF THIS EXHIBITION OR TO RESCHEDULE IT AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE.

Dr. Victor Rabinovitch
President and Chief Executive Officer
(819) 776-7116
victor.rabinovitch@civilization.ca
Pierre Pontbriand
Vice President
(819) 776-8515
pierre.pontbriand@civilization.ca
Louise Dubois
Corporate Secretary and Director General, Strategic Planning
(819) 776-7115
louise.dubois@civilization.ca
Dr. Stephen Inglis
Director General
(819) 776-8239
stephen.inglis@civilization.ca

Sincerely,
Rawi Hage (exhibition artist) Montreal, rawi@sympatico.ca
Jayce Salloum (exhibition artist) Vancouver, jsalloum@aol.com
Laura Marks (writer/critic), Ottawa, laura_marks@carleton.ca

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