Solidarity with Leena Manimekalai

Solidarity with Leena Manimekalai

July 15, 2022
Signatures: 381Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

Started by John Greyson

As Canadian artists, scholars and activists, we stand in unequivocal solidarity with filmmaker Leena Manimekalai and her documentary Kaali. We are horrified by the extreme harassment, death threats, abuse, censorship and legal charges that Leena has faced in recent weeks concerning the poster of her new short film, which depicts Goddess Kaali smoking a cigarette and holding a pride flag.  We stand with Leena, supporting her fundamental rights of freedom of expression as she critically explores issues of identity, community and diversity.

As a distinguished artist, invited to study and work in Canada at York University, Leena Manimekalai has been active creating original feminist, queer and anti-racist works which explore diverse themes. In early July, she was asked with 17 other artists to create an original work for the Under the Tent exhibition, a “creative exploration of diversity and race” organized by the Toronto Metropolitan University, and exhibited at the Aga Khan Museum. Her short film Kaali is a personal, critical and poetic meditation on the theme of the program, “belonging or not belonging under the tent of Canadian multiculturalism.”

Upon seeing the poster, some Hindu fundamentalists in India have publicly called for Leena to be raped, tortured and murdered. Violence and threats of violence on the pretext of allegations of alleged blasphemy are shameful and condemnable - in any faith, in any culture. We are particularly alarmed and disappointed that in response, the Aga Khan Museum and TMU have renounced their support of Leena, but welcome York University publicly declaring its support of the "artistic autonomy of our student …to create art that engenders thought provoking discourse." We call on individuals and institutions to speak out in full support of Leena Manimekalai, and in recognition of the rights of all to freely express themselves without fear.

Himani Bannerji, Professor Emerita, York University

Manfred Becker, documentary filmmaker

Mary Bunch, scholar and media artist

Patricio Davila, artist 

Barbara Evans, filmmaker, CMA, York University

Caitlin Fisher, media artist and scholar

Richard Fung, video artist

Rebecca Garrett, artist/filmmaker

John Greyson, video/film artist, CMA, York University

Sharon Hayashi, film and media scholar

Philip Hoffman, film artist and teacher, CMA, York University

Helen Lee, filmmaker

Laura Levin, performance/media artist and scholar

Brenda Longfellow, filmmaker

Janine Marchessault, Film and Media Scholar, CMA, York University

Taien Ng-Chan, scholar and media artist

Kerri Sakamoto, writer

Amil Shivji, filmmaker

Min Sook Lee, documentary filmmaker

Lisa Steele, artist, Professor Emerati, University of Toronto

Kim Tomczak, artist

Ingrid Veninger, filmmaker

Kathy Wazana, documentary filmmaker

b.h. Yael, video artist 

Michael Zryd, film scholar

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Signatures: 381Next Goal: 500
Support now