‘We were here’: Empty walls as activists ask for removal of portraits in LGBT solidarity

Siti Kasim and Marina stand in front of the wall where their portraits were once exhibited. — Picture courtesy of Facebook/Siti Kasim
Siti Kasim and Marina stand in front of the wall where their portraits were once exhibited. — Picture courtesy of Facebook/Siti Kasim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — Parts of a photo exhibition, where the portraits of two LGBT activists were taken down, were left with just empty walls after activists requested that their portraits be taken down too.

Lawyer and civil rights activist Siti Kasim posted several photos on Facebook last night, showing the white walls where the portraits once stood.

“Where our photos used to be in which Islamofascists are afraid of ” Siti wrote in a public post on her Facebook profile.

She attached a photo of herself and renowned activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir pointing at signs bearing their names, together with the words “was here”.

Earlier this week, Marina had asked the organisers of the Stripes and Strokes exhibition to remove her portrait as well.

Among those whose portraits were also missing were radio presenter Patrick Teoh, and writer and poet Bernice Chauly.

Most of the comments on Siti’s post had praised them for standing up for the marginalised community.

It is also understood that others whose photos have been taken down included Sarawakian artist Alena Murang, social activist Hartini Zainuddin, publisher and filmmaker Amir Muhammad, actor Tony Eusoff, and Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa had blamed George Town Festival 2018’s organisers for forcing his hand in the removal of the portraits of trans advocate Nisha Ayub and Queer Lapis editor Pang Khee Teik by listing them as “LGBT activists”.

Mujahid had admitted that he was the one who had issued the directive, asking that their portraits be taken down, while Penang State Secretary Datuk Seri Farizan Darus had been the one who instructed organisers to remove them from the exhibition.

The move was widely praised by anti-LGBT Muslims, but slammed by many members of the public, especially within the arts community.

George Town Festival director Joe Sidek was reported as saying by the BBC that he was disappointed by the directive, but “chose to lose the battle”.

The exhibition, which is held in conjunction with the George Town Festival, had consisted of 28 portraits of Malaysians posing with the national flag.

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