Edmonton

Edmonton mayor scraps sculptures after Hindu protest

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has ordered a series of public sculptures depicting a Hindu god be removed after an official complaint and petition from the local Hindu community.

Edmonton MayorStephen Mandel has ordered a series of public sculptures depicting a Hindu god be removed after an official complaint and petition from the local Hindu community.

The action has not pleased the artist, Ryan McCourt, who said he was offended by the mayor's decision.

Two of the four sculptures located in front of the Shaw Conference Centre downtown show Lord Ganesh, the most revered god in the Hindu religion, decapitated with male genitalia and a woman's breast.
The series of Ganesh sculptures is part of a public art program. ((CBC))

"Showing nudity over there, showing the arms and ammunition in his hand, his head has been cut off, that's not the right way. That's not the way he should be presented," said Rajiv Ranjan of the Hindu Society of Alberta.

Ranjan and other community leaders say the sculptures are insulting to them and their religion and presented a petition with 700 signatures to the mayor this week, requesting the artwork be taken down.

Mandel agreed Wednesday, saying he wants the sculptures down as soon as possible.

"I think it's important that we're cognizant of things we do that might have an impact on the community when we have public art," Mandel said. "At the same time we don't want to be censoring art either so we have to strike a fine balance."

The sculptures were chosen for display under the non-profit Art and Design in Public Places program. McCourt won $10,000 for his work.

McCourt, who met with members of the Hindu community earlier this year to explain his sculptures, is unapologetic.
The god Ganesh is revered in all Hindu homes and temples. ((CBC))

"My research led me to find out that there is nothing offensive about these sculptures," McCourt told CBC News. "They are totally within the bounds of traditional depictions and the people that are upset about these works are just a handful of individuals that don't like this artwork."

The artist said he's not happy with the mayor's decision.

"I think it's disgraceful," McCourt said. "I think for someone who puts himself forward as a friend of the arts, he's put his foot in the mouth. He's made a fool of himself basically."

The convention centre said it hasreceived three complaints as well as some positive comments about the artwork since it went up on Jasper Avenue last year.

The sculptures were due to be removed by the artist this month anyway. McCourt said if Mandel wants them taken away sooner, the mayor should pay for the cost of removal.

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