Sunday 24th September 2023,
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Has Anish Kapoor lost his voice on Communalism in Gaza?

Has Anish Kapoor lost his voice on Communalism in Gaza?

Indian born sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor was extremely vocal and vitriolic in his attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India being a threat to freedom in the world’s largest democracy. Given very generous time by the BBC to air his views he was certain that the man who won the popular vote by an incredible landslide would do harm to that nation’s communal fabric, and would threaten the very existence of minorities. On 17 May 2014 on the BBC’s Anish Kapoor characterized Narendra Modi thus:

“India has dreamed itself a dream with a mass murderer as its main character.

Now Sir Kapoor who seems so keen to decry a mass murderer who was actually cleared by the country’s courts is mysteriously silent on what is happening right now in the Middle East. Daily we witness gut-wrenching scenes of innocent men, women and children being killed as the people of Gaza and Israel are subjected to shootings, bombings and rocket attacks in this latest conflict between Israel and the Hamas authorities. The violence has been so extreme that it has led to the resignation of a British government minister, Baroness Warsi, who felt not enough is being done to resolve the conflict.

Yet where is Sir Kapoor in all this? This region is in fact very dear to his heart. In 1970, at the age of 16, he and one of his two brothers went to Israel, spending time first on a kibbutz and then studying at university. “I lived in Israel from 1970 to 1973,” he says. “It was where I decided that I was going to be an artist, and why, in 1973, I came to London to go to art school.” He is reluctant to answer if he himself had any Jewish upbringing merely stating that it was “cosmopolitan and modern”. But he is actually Jewish on his mother’s side and so would be entitled to settle in Israel under its Law of Return. Hence it will come as no surprise that in 2010, Turning the World Upside Down, Jerusalem was commissioned and installed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The sculpture is described as a “16-foot tall polished-steel hourglass” and it “reflects and reverses the Jerusalem sky and the museum’s landscape, a likely reference to the city’s duality of celestial and earthly, holy and profane”. Yet again with these sort of noble sentiments one would have thought Kapoor would have had something to say on the suffering beamed into our homes very day from Israel and Gaza. On 10 April 2014, Kapoor was one of several signatories, that included Salman Rushdie, in an open letter warning that Modi’s election as prime minister of India would bode ill for India’s future. He even compared Modi to Robert Mugabe. Yet again that begs the question, why is Kapoor so silent on what is happening in Israel and Gaza? Does this ‘communal’ conflict not deem worthy of his attention because it might cast the country of his formative years in a less than favourable light? What is the reason for his silence?

Do the people killed, maimed, displaced and made destitute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not count as worthy enough in his eyes to warrant attention? This is a region which has always been on a geopolitical knife edge with the potential to erupt into global conflict between nations. Indeed three times in the past it has erupted into war between Israel and its Arab neighbours. So with all this combustible material making headlines round the world, not just daily, but minute by minute, why then does Kapoor feel the need to have absolutely no opinion on the subject? While celebrities, academics and other well known personalities have spoken out against the carnage and suffering, Sir Kapoor seems completely oblivious to the unnecessary loss of life taking place. Again, that begs the question why is he so vocal against India, yet so silent on the issue now causing slaughter between Israel and the Palestinian territories?

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