FREDERICTON, NB — A Palestinian children’s art exhibit that was scheduled to open in Fredericton last week was postponed due to public pressure stemming from allegations that the work is propaganda and was done by adults.
The exhibit, a Child’s View from Gaza, has travelled across North America and was setting up to open at Charlotte Street Arts Centre for April 19. The art was submitted by Gazan children depicting their lives and experience during the 22-day Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-2009, during which over 1,100 Palestinians died including hundreds of children.
However one Fredericton resident says he believes the exhibit’s pieces are inauthentic and fraudulent.
“This would appear to have been done by adults certainly not by six year olds, and/or done by children under the direction of adults,” said Israel Unger, a protestor of the exhibit.
He says the drawings are propaganda, anti-Israeli, and too sophisticated to be drawn by children.
The allegations, along with letters and calls from other protesters, led the Centre’s board of directors to postpone the opening and review the situation.
A report in a New Brunswick newspaper earlier on Wednesday said the arts centre was pressured to cancel the show.
The exhibit’s supporters, including the Fredericton branch of Jews for a Just Peace, the Fredericton Peace Coalition, Fredericton Palestine Solidarity,the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Wilmot United Church, presented their case to the board and the show was rescheduled to open on April 26.
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“The Charlotte Street Arts Centre board has met and voted to go ahead with the Child’s View of Gaza Exhibition this Friday,” the board wrote in a statement. “The Centre does not endorse any particular political viewpoint or group. Our vision is opening the doors to creative expression for all.”
Unger questions the intent of art centres in general.
“Is it the purpose of an art centre to promote certain political views? I wouldn’t think so,” he said.
The exhibit was on display in Moncton in late March and was well received said Aberdeen Cultural Centre director René Légère.
The purpose of art is to present a moment he said, and these pieces appear to do just that.
“Sometimes there are bombs and guns and people who are fighting together, it’s not unusual, it’s what some of these children see almost everyday,” said Légère.
Légère said he doesn’t have any second thoughts about hosting the Moncton exhibit.
The show’s sponsor said other individuals have made similar allegations online and that there’s no truth to the accusation the drawings are done by adults.
The curator, Susan Johnson, was inspired by art therapy classes for children who survived the attack she witnessed while visiting Gaza.
Johnson along withCanadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East later asked Gazan children to draw what they see for an art exhibition. They curated the pieces from over 100 submissions.
Légère says it’s not about the politics, it’s about the power of images.
“What they tried to express was the situation of the kids of Gaza. I’m sure another exhibition could express the difficulties of the kids of Israel.”
In 2011 the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland, California cancelled the exhibition after pressure from the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation of East Bay.