CBC Digital Archives

University censors 'racist' artworks

In the 1960s, police busted a gallery owner for an installation of nudes. More recently, when an artist filmed a cat being killed and eaten, the artist was locked up. Even if the country's definition of obscenity has transformed over time, for decades the debate has stayed the same: Is art censorship an act thwarting obscenity or an Orwellian control?

media clip
Lyn Robichaud paints women of colour, one with bunches of yellow and green bananas on her head set on a blue, orange and red sky. She calls herself a feminist artist but gallery exhibitors ban her for "Chiquita banana" portrayals of black women. The installation by women artists appears at Montreal's Concordia University in the women's centre. The gallery's organising committee censors several of Robichaud's colleagues, also for racist depictions.

One female student, who doesn't like the paintings either, says "that's exactly the kind of imagery...used to put another culture in a kind of stereotype."
• Organizers told Robichaud that as a white woman she shouldn't be painting black women at all.

• In a report released around the time of the Concordia University censorship, the Canada Council stated that "cultural appropriation is a serious issue and requires ongoing debate by staff, juries and advisory committees, as well as the artistic community at large."

• The Canadian Criminal Code makes it an offence to exhibit "obscene, indecent, immoral or scurrilous" matter.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 3, 1992
Guest(s): Natalie Kaufman, Lyn Robichaud
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Neil MacDonald
Duration: 2:05
This is the audio of a TV report for which video is unavailable.

Last updated: May 22, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Chinese Immigration to Canada: A Tale of Pers...

They risked their lives to help build Canada's railroad in the 1880s. But as soon as the work ...

Nelson Mandela: Prisoner, President, Peacemak...

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela's life began in a tiny village in South Africa, which he describes a...

Canada and the Fight Against Apartheid Part 2

For almost 50 years, South Africa was ruled by apartheid -- a brutal system of racial separati...

Canada and the Fight Against Apartheid Part 1

For almost 50 years, South Africa was ruled by apartheid -- a brutal system of racial separati...

Artists Busted: Censorship in Canada

In the 1960s, police busted a gallery owner for an installation of nudes. More recently, when ...

The Group of Seven: Painters in the Wildernes...

Around 1912 a loosely knit group of artists began to paint Canada as they saw it. Sketch boxes...