Sadaf Ahmadi

BT: Do it again and do it right Ida Burén!

Hanna Grahn

It is not Sadaf Ahmadi’s work that is dangerous to Boras or to Swedish society.

What is dangerous is when art must be made to conform and to be disarmed, when the discussion it seeks to provoke is silenced.

Art and free speech are critically important parts of a democratic society.

Thousands of words have been written in the media this week about the decision by Kulturhuset in Boras took to cancel Sadaf Ahmadi’s exhibit.

The cowardice and compliance of these decisions have been widely denounced.

The fear of reprisals from islamists is understandable and relevant today. It’s not the first time that an exhibit has been canceled for security concerns. Right now an exhibit by Lars Vilk in Hoganas is notably missing some of his most famous work.

The decision from Kulturhuset in Boras to stop Sadaf Ahamdi’s work is the first example of an art exhibit being canceled since the terror threat level in Sweden has been raised and the prime minister has called for ‘extra vigilance’. I wouldn’t call the cultural director of Kulturhuset a coward; rather I would characterise this as misdirected goodwill, or as an attempt to do the right thing while in fact achieving the opposite. It is allowing the awful idea that fear can rule our society. This can only lead to a dead-end that will be difficult to turn back from. The influence of Quran burners will only become as powerful as we allow.

It seems that the fear of showing Sadaf’s work originated at Kulturhuset and was reinforced by conversations with CKS. We know that the administration of Kulturhuset contacted CKS. Did they present the project and what it stands for and what it represents accurately and dispassionately? Or did they ask leading questions presenting the work as too dangerous to be shown for security reasons? These are questions I want the answers to, and the questions I should have asked when I interviewed Ida Burén.

One of the arguments for canceling Sadaf’s show was that it could be perceived as scary for families with children. According to security chief Rangbar Mohammad, the work could be perceived as offensive. I say so what. Give us art that affects us and challenges us and provides a nuanced view of the world. I can promise you that a version of Boras in which the only art shown is watercolors of flowers would be a dark and dreary place to live.

Sadaf’s pictures from the exhibition in Provence reveal a complex and diverse body of work, rich in possibilities for interpretation. Sadaf has told me that when she exhibited in France this summer the matter of security was never an issue. Children wandered among the concrete statues in the gallery and some even ran up to them and embraced them.

Now Sadaf Ahmadi is being interviewed by media from all over the world. Now there’s only one sensible way forward, Ida Buren. That is to completely renounce the decision to cancel the exhibition of any of Sadaf’s work. Allow Sadaf to exhibit the hanging women in Chadors in the entrance of Kulturhuset as you planned. We need this art more than ever right now.