Nudity in Art is Part of Realism

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A photo of a self-censored nude model as part of an exhibition on women and child abuse, is causing quite a stir among conservative members of the society, resulting in withdrawals of support to well-known entertainment company, Avalon. “As a matter of principle, we did not want to compromise the photographer’s creativity. That is why we were prepared to find an alternative venue to display his works. Initially, the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre agreed to avail its venue for the exhibition and other activities of the programme for a week,” explained co-owner of Avalon, Natasha Lamoela, yesterday in an Art/Life interview. According to Lamoela, the director of the FNCC changed her mind about accommodating the exhibition even before the nude photo appeared in a daily newspaper and continues to be published. “We have been working on this exhibition and the rest of the programme for more than a year, during which time the former director of the FNCC willingly, eagerly and formally agreed to accommodate the exhibition. However, when we formalized and reconfirmed our initial agreement with the FNCC, the new director indicated her discomfort with the nude photo. She insisted on seeing the rest of the photos to be used in the exhibition, something Avalon refused to agree to,” Lamoela said. The company managed to secure an alternative venue – the privately owned Studio 77 in the capital – after informing the FNCC about their intention to do so. “We received the same negative and disappointing response from the Office of the Ombudsman, who initially welcomed our presence in and contributions towards the 16-day programme on the abuse of women and children which starts next week,” she said. The secretary to the Ombudsman contacted Avalon for an urgent meeting and insisted the committee see the rest of the photos to be used in the exhibition. “We refused her request based on the fact that we could compromise the work of the photographic artist. Thereafter, the office informed us that it would unfortunately not want to be associated with the exhibition any longer as part of the programme,” she said. Lamoela said that, since the nude photo appeared in the art section of The Namibian they have received a lot of telephonic and e-mail support for their stance regarding the nude photograph. “In fact, some local magazines have indicated that they would be interested in publishing all the photographic works that are to be displayed during the exhibition. I must say, we respect the views and visions of both the director of the FNCC and the Ombudsman’s Office, but they must keep in mind that we, as artists, also have our own creative visions, which include realism in art,” Lamoela said. In support of Avalon’s stance with regard to nudity in art, Committed Artists of Namibia’s organizing secretary, actress Felicity Celento, responded as follows on behalf of her organization: “My word! Do these objectors still think we are living in the Dark Ages with nudity in Namibian arts? This is the 21st Century. They must stop trying to influence free-thinking and freedom of artistic expression. We live in an open society, unlike before independence when we, as the first Namibian actors, were crucified for appearing semi-nude in our play ‘The Beauty Contest’ for the sake of realism in arts. This kind of double standard can cause irreparable damage to true arts,” Celento asserted on behalf of Committed Artists of Namibia.