Muslim exhibition for women's eyes only

ELLE HUNT
Last updated 05:00 26/08/2012

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A Lower Hutt art gallery is fielding complaints following the announcement that men will be banned from viewing an upcoming exhibition that shows Muslim women without veils.

The Dowse Art Museum is preparing to host the world premiere of a video display entitled Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only, that shows female friends and relatives preparing for a cousin's wedding without wearing their hijabs, or veils.

In accordance with the wishes of the artist, Qatari writer and film-maker Sophia Al-Maria, men will not be allowed to view the work, prompting outrage from locals.

Lower Hutt resident Paul Young is calling for support for his campaign against the work, which he says is "inflammatory and provocative", and discriminates against half the population.

"As a ratepayer, I find it a shocking situation. I see this sort of thing as being the thin end of the wedge," Young said. "Steps have to be taken to make sure that this doesn't go ahead in its current format."

Young intends to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over the exhibit this week. He also questioned how the ban would be enforced, and said the Dowse was "naive" for expecting patrons to abide by the ban.

"It's fraught with all sort of difficulties, because I know guys will try, just to upset the applecart. I said to my wife, it might be an opportunity for me to put my high heels and makeup on - though I'd much rather see it de-escalated at this stage."

Dowse director Cam McCracken said the museum had received "one or two" complaints about the exhibit since the news broke yesterday, which was "to be expected". He said he would respond to these using the museum's standard protocol. "I think the Dowse is doing its job if it is asking questions of the community. That's what I see our role as being.

"We present a very diverse range of programmes - not everything is provocative, but sometimes it is, and this is one of those times."

This is not the Dowse's first brush with controversy this year. In February, it backtracked on plans to host an art installation using water that once washed corpses following objections from local iwi.

The exhibit, by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, was subsequently withdrawn from the International Arts Festival.

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