Ban on banana-eating artwork draws ridicule in Poland

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People play with banana peels during a protest against perceived censorship by Poland's National Museum in front of the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland April 29, 2019. (REUTERS)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2019

Ban on banana-eating artwork draws ridicule in Poland

  • Art critics note that “Consumer Art” was a critical comment on food shortages under communist rule in the 1970s

WARSAW, Poland: A few hundred mostly young people jointly ate bananas outside Warsaw’s top national gallery on Monday to protest what they called censorship, after authorities removed artwork there featuring the fruit, saying it was improper.
The protest was called by artists and opposition politicians as part of their action on Facebook and Twitter of posting photos of themselves eating bananas in order to ridicule the ban. The action grew into a show of apparent criticism of the government.
The 1973 video “Consumer Art,” by prominent artist Natalia LL, showing a young woman eating a banana with great pleasure, was removed from the National Museum in Warsaw last week after the new museum head, Jerzy Miziolek, was summoned to the Ministry of Culture.
Miziolek said in an interview with the Onet.pl portal last week that he was “opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people” and suggested some visitors have complained. The work had been in the gallery for many years.
A separate 2005 video by another controversial female artist, Katarzyna Kozyra, showing a woman walking two men on all fours, dressed as dogs on a lead, was also removed.
On Monday, Miziolek announced that the works would be reinstated, but only until May 6, when the whole modern art gallery is due for reorganization. Miziolek and the Ministry of Culture denied there was any pressure on the museum.
Miziolek, who was appointed to the state-run museum by the right-wing government in November, said Monday he appreciated the role of both artists in Poland’s culture, but the gallery’s limited space requires “creative changes” to the exhibition.
The dispute is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding art and culture under the conservative and nationalist government that won power in 2015.
Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has repeatedly drawn criticism for cutting subsidies to art festivals that were planning to show controversial theater plays on Catholic themes. Glinski has fired a popular theater director who criticized him as well as the director of a World War II museum, saying the exhibition did not show Poland’s suffering or heroism enough.
He recently cut funds for the European Solidarity Center, an exhibition on the Solidarity movement’s history and a culture center popular with government critics, saying its activity went beyond its history-teaching mission.
Twitter and Facebook users ridiculed the removal of the art works as narrow-minded and a case of censorship, and many posted photos of themselves enjoying bananas.
Actress Magdalena Cielecka told The Associated Press that the image she posted, of her pointing a banana at her head like a gun, was in protest against any ideological or political limits put on artists.
“An artist, to create, must be free,” Cielecka said.
At the collective banana-eating protest Monday night, some people brought more than one banana, while others put banana skins on top of their heads. A few unarmed police officers were on the scene outside the museum, which is closed on Mondays.
Senate speaker and prominent ruling Law and Justice party member Stanislaw Karczewski sought to discredit the protest, tweeting that Polish apples are tastier than bananas and have fewer calories.
“The #BananowyProtest (banana protest) is the straight road to obesity,” Karczewski tweeted.
The controversy was widely commented on in national media.
Art critics note that “Consumer Art” was a critical comment on food shortages under communist rule in the 1970s.


Keepers, animals keep each other company at Cairo’s shuttered zoo

Updated 03 April 2020

Keepers, animals keep each other company at Cairo’s shuttered zoo

  • The zoo in Giza, across the Nile from central Cairo, is one of the few green spaces in the usually bustling city of 23 million and is often crammed with families
  • Egypt, like other countries, is trying to curb the spread of coronavirus cases by restricting people’s movements

CAIRO: The chimpanzees, lions and hippos of Cairo’s zoo are getting a rare spell of peace and quiet alone with their keepers as a closure caused by the coronavirus outbreak keeps the public away.
The zoo in Giza, across the Nile from central Cairo, is one of the few green spaces in the usually bustling city of 23 million and is often crammed with families seeking diversion from the grind of daily life.
Now keepers do their rounds at the zoo along deserted pathways, feeding animals apples and bananas through the railings of their cages and bringing fresh hay to their enclosures.
Veteran keeper Mohamed Aly holds hands with 12-year-old chimpanzee Jolia in a gesture of friendship, while noting that keepers are careful about cleaning hands between rounds.
“I’ve been here about 25 years,” he said. “(I’ve spent) my whole life with them, they may not speak but they feel everything, and of course all of them are looking for people to play with.”
Egypt, like other countries, is trying to curb the spread of coronavirus cases by restricting people’s movements. It has imposed a night curfew and shut schools, mosques and tourist sites including the pyramids. It has so far confirmed more than 850 cases of the virus, including more than 50 deaths.
The zoo, which has been closed along with others in Egypt since March 18, is sprayed with disinfectant twice a week.

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