Sooraya Graham’s photo of a fully veiled Muslim woman holding a bra revealed underlying tensions at a Canadian university recently.
Graham was stunned to learn a school staff member had removed her black-and-white photo – tearing it slightly in the process – from a display with other student works, The Canadian Press reported.
The staffer, who also wears a veil, left a business card in its place and demanded Graham rehang the photo elsewhere.
“Even though some people want to silence those thoughts or make them go away, we live in Canada where – as long as we’re not hurting another individual – we have that right to express ourselves,” Graham told CP.
Graham also wears a veil and is from northern BC.
The fourth-year fine arts student took the business card to an administrator at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, and the photo was returned to the artist, CBC said.
The school committed to repairing any damages, said Christopher Seguin, TRU’s vice president of advancement.
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“The university is committed to honouring artistic expression, and on a campus with many international stakeholders, it is important that we balance cultural sensitivity with freedom of speech, and we value the conversations that this piece of art and all our others inspire,” he said.
The photo even touched a nerve at the Saudi Education center in Kamloops, a city of about 100,000 people about four hours northeast of Vancouver.
Trad Bahabri, president of the Saudi center, said text explaining the photo is needed.
“I’m pretty sure many people misinterpret and many people misunderstand it,” he told CBC.
The center helps Saudi students and their families in BC, and is funded by the Saudi Arabian embassy.
Graham said while interpreting art is an individual decision, she was trying to show that all women are the same underneath, the Vancouver Sun reported.
Graham's photograph is of a friend folding laundry holding a patterned bra.
“You often see the stereotype of the veiled woman being oppressed,” Graham told the Sun. “We all wear the same undergarments, do laundry, go shopping. I was leaving it open-ended for others to interpret the photo in their own way.”
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