“Who are we” by Andrew Esiebo, one of the artworks in the cancelled exhibition
A groundbreaking exhibition of LGBTI African art has been banned by the authorities in Senegal after an attack on the gallery.
The exhibition, Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness, opened on 11 May as part of the informal programme for Dak’Art 2014, the 11th Biennale of Contemporary African Art.
The Art Newspaper reported that a day after the opening, the Raw Material Company gallery in Dakar was vandalised and damaged by Muslim fundamentalists.
It said that as a result of pressure by “extremist Islamic organisations,” the exhibition was shut down by the Senegalese government on 31 May.
All other works or exhibitions that refer to homosexuality included in the Biennale were also banned.
French-Algerian artist Kader Attia told The Art Newspaper that he was surprised by the acts of intimidation and censorship.
“Senegal is well-known for its peaceful and moderated Islam. Such an aggressive attack is absolutely unexpected, as is the government’s decision to shut down all the exhibitions in the biennial that deal with homosexuality,” he said.
“It is highly concerning that a country that has always been protected from fundamentalism is now opening the door through an official path.”
The Raw Material Company art centre in Dakar
The exhibition included works by acclaimed South African lesbian activist photographer Zanele Muholi.
Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal under article 319 of the penal code, which criminalises “improper or unnatural” acts with penalties of up to five years in prison.
Despite the country claiming that the law is not used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, it has recently been used to do just that.
In February, two men were sentenced to six months in jail on charges of homosexuality.
In November last year, five women were arrested in a Dakar bar on charges of lesbianism. They were later released due to lack of evidence.