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Feminists call Azamat Zhamankulov extremely harmful to culture manager

Participants of the first Feminnale of Contemporary Art, which takes place at the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts in Bishkek, ask for help and protection from the guarantor of the Constitution — the country’s president. An open letter from 22 artists was sent to Sooronbai Jeenbekov.

«The Minister of Culture Azamat Zhamankulov carried out an act of censorship at the exhibition, acting at the instigation of right-wing radical groups that have nothing to do with culture and art. The minister arbitrarily, in absence of any formalized ban or decree, and frankly calling this action an act of censorship, banned the display of several works, and the organizers, under his pressure, were forced to remove them from the exposition,» the statement says.

It is symbolic that this act of state violence against artists was carried out during the international week to combat violence against women.

The authors of the letter note the deplorableness of the happening just a few days after the Kyrgyz Government expressed the country’s commitment to the principles of gender equality at the high-level development forum on November 19 in the presence of the head of state.

«The forum’s declaration states that special attention will be paid to gender equality, the empowerment of women in all spheres of activity and the fight against discrimination and violence based on gender differences, but the actions of the Minister of Culture are clearly contrary to this,» the statement says.

Azamat Zhamankulov’s actions directly violate the commitments made by Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Program, because they contradict its clause on gender equality.

From the artists’ letter to Sooronbai Jeenbekov

«Organizers of the exhibition continue to receive threats from radical right-wing groups, the police are not taking any action to protect their citizens from extremist attacks. The Minister of Culture and right-wing radical groups attacking the organizers of the exhibition directly violate the Constitution. Officials at this level, who violate the country’s supreme law, are a disgrace to the country. And the whole world already knows about this shame,» the authors of the letter stress.

According to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, everyone is guaranteed freedom of all types of creativity (Article 49, Paragraph 1).

The Minister of Culture, following the example of the right-wing radical groups wishing to dictate their own rules and under the guise of national traditions conveying the rhetoric of hatred and violence, sets a precedent of flagrant lawlessness and arbitrariness and seriously worsens the country’s image in the international arena.

Carrying out the act of censorship, the Minister of Culture demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the fundamental principles of culture: culture does not require management, culture does not tolerate censorship, culture requires support.

Misunderstanding and violation of these principles indicates the complete professional ineptitude of Azamat Zhamankulov as the Minister of Culture.

«We, the Feminnale participants, artists from 22 countries of the world, who have very rich experience in work with many cultural institutions, which allows us to judge such things, consider the Minister of Culture Azamat Zhamankulov unsuitable for the performance of his professional duties and a manager extremely harmful to culture, as he personally creates obstacles to the development of culture in the republic,» the statement says.

The first Feminnale of Contemporary Art is held in Bishkek. A large-scale exposition was opened in the Museum of Fine Arts named after Gapar Aitiev with works of 56 artists from 22 countries.

However, the activists were outraged by the performance, which provoked heated discussions on social media, about the plight of young women — a girl washing lamb intestines in a bowl, or naked women.

The Director of the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts Mira Dzhangaracheva was hastily dismissed by the Minister of Culture.