Bangladeshi artist censored in Tower Hamlets

November 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm (Art and design, Bangladesh, censorship, Civil liberties, culture, London, Pakistan, strange situations)

From the Dockland & East London Advertiser:

Artist ‘censored’ by Tower Hamlets Council at Bangladeshi exhibition

Saif Osmani with some of his work at the Brady Arts Centre 

Above: Saif Osami with some of his work at the Brady Arts Centre
By Adam Barnett, Reporter

A Bangladeshi artist has criticised the Council after he was told some of his work was too controversial for public display

One of the pieces deemed "too contraversial" by Tower Hamlets Council

Above: one of the pieces deemed “too controversial” by Tower Hamlets Council

Saif Osmani, 32, who was born in Whitechapel, was invited to show his work at the Brady Arts Centre in Hanbury Street as part of a season of Bangladeshi drama and art.

But when Mr Osmani arrived on November 2 he says he was told by a council arts officer that four of his pieces, which combine the Pakistani and Bangladeshi flags, might anger “hardliners” and would not be shown.

Mr Osmani, who lives in Stratford, said: “I was told that due to the political situation in Bangladesh I was unaware of what this series of paintings could trigger with the ‘hardliners’.

“I can’t see why these events happening thousands of miles away have started dictating this exhibition here in the UK.”

Tower Hamlets Council declined to say who its arts officer meant by “hardliners”.

Mr Osmani said the rest of his work was moved to a corner of the room near the toilet and was later hidden by a pull-up banner.

Akhtar Hussain, of art group Avid Art Agency, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that this level of censoring is taking place in the name of political correctness at an event which was supposed to celebrated British and Bangladeshi arts, but instead curtails the content of the art on display.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We are clear that there has been no censorship in relation to this exhibition.

“As with any public space the council does have the right to decide what is exhibited and in this case the pictures chosen were fully discussed and agreed between the artist and a member of the council arts team.”

The exhibition runs until November 22 at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Hanbury Street.

Assuming that the article is accurate, this would appear to be an outrageous act of censorship. But what exactly are the political motives that lie behind it? And who are these “hardliners” who might be angered by the paintings? Any information from readers would be most welcome.


  1. Bangladeshi artist censored in Tower Hamlets | OzHouse said,

    […] Nov 14 2013 by admin […]

    • Miss Fuad said,

      OMG!!!! ! !

  2. dagmar said,

    Might some of these ‘hardliners’ hold political office in Tower Hamlets? I’m not saying that is the case, I’m just asking.

  3. Babs said,

    I think I maybe able to explain somewhat. East and West Pakistan fought a bloody civil war in which many were killed. I say many and not an approximate because it depends on who you ask. Pakistanis say tens of thousands, some historians say hundreds of thousands while Bangladeshis say as many as 3 million were killed in an act of genocide perpetrated by Pakistani troops and their loyalist Islamist Bengali supporters. Eventually the Bengalis rebels with Indian military and Soviet diplomatic support won and Bangladesh was born (1971).

    Without checking, I don’t think the Pakistanis ever apologised for the war but the two countries do have diplomatic relations. What I’m trying to get at is there are Bengalis out there who hate Pakistanis and don’t want to reconcile with them so I believe they are the ‘hardliners’ who oppose that piece of art.

  4. Sue R said,

    I’m sorry but I find the artist’s answer impossible to understand. He says that he was told that ‘due to the political situation in Bangladesh I was unaware of what this series of paintings could trigger in ‘hardliners”. Is he waying that he is/was unaware fo the political situation in Bangladesh or unaware of the violent response that could be engendered by his art’s display. It would be interesting to know who ‘ordered’ this censorship. I suspect it may be to do with the recent events at the East London Mosque where a founder member has been sentenced to death in Bangladesh for war crimes.

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