Annas Eskander
Annas Eskander campaign leader

Having an art and design background and a career in the fashion industry spanning two decades, I have always had a love for art. From Robert Mapplethorpe at the Hayward Gallery to Yayoi Kusama at the National Gallery in Singapore, I have visited numerous exhibitions around the world where censorship has never been an issue. There have been exhibitions I have liked and some that were questionable.

Art, at its essence, can be controversial, exposing us to all kinds of debatable questions. It opens us up to new perspectives and enlightens us, regardless of whether we agree with it or not. It is a history lesson to remind us of where we were in terms of thought and how far we have come. Ever since I was introduced to the Pre-Raphaelites, John William Waterhouse has been a favourite of mine. Having lost my husband four years ago to brain cancer, I found solace in three of his works, Boreas, The Lady of Shallot and Hylas and the Nymphs. Waterhouse's paintings not only express an incredible artistic temperament, but he is a master at emotional storytelling within an ethereal world.

For years, I have been living in London and thinking how much I would love to see Hylas and the Nymphs at least once in my lifetime. Well, I finally got the opportunity to go to the Manchester Art Gallery only to be told the painting was removed on Friday 26th January as some part of feminist installation relating to the representation of the female body. I cannot express how devastated I am, not only to miss out on seeing the painting but to be told that it may never be exhibited again.

Correct me if I am wrong but do we not live in a liberal and civilised society where the job of the curator is to enlighten, not to impose their own personal beliefs on others and censor art at their will? Why would you impose your own beliefs on others? To morally dictate to others what we can or cannot see? Censorship like this puts you in league with restrictive regimes, both current and historical. Shall we start destroying everything that offends us and end up living in Fahrenheit 451 or The Handmaid's Tale? We ridicule the past for banning Lady Chatterley's Lover and the future will ridicule us for the amount of disrespect we have demonstrated for our history and heritage.

The removal of Hylas and the Nymphs from the Manchester Art Gallery is feminist extremism at its worst and I am truly ashamed to call myself a feminist. I want to ask all of those who supported this reprehensible act of censorship: are we so weak minded as women or insecure about our own femininity to be so easily offended by freedom of artistic expression? It is a cheap gimmick and a publicity stunt at best, by an unknown artist who truly has not experienced what it is to live in a country that restricts your rights because of your gender.

To quote The Handmaid's Tale for all the Serena Joy's of this world; the very women who misguidedly impose their own beliefs on others and manufacture a whole new form of oppression... "A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze."

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