Inscription upon the body: the artist almost got it right.
The professor and the builder were visiting a gallery. They went to see a controversial retrospective of a Somalian born Dutch national artist called Ayaan van de Paddo. The exhibition was controversial amongst the Muslims of the city, because her oeuvre tended to follow a consistent theme: naked female bodies, painted, as if tattooed, with words of the Quran. Her message was in some way political, relating to the treatment of women in the Islamic world. The juxtaposition was too much for some of the believers. The outside courtyard of gallery was subject to constant noisy protest, a sea of brown and black voices crying out, sounding inside the gallery like waves of an angry post-colonial ocean about to break, or perhaps already broken, up on the shore of this strange Albion. The protest came courtesy of the local university’s Islamic Union, with much flag and effigy burning, angry sheikh speeches and quivering voiced sister vox-pops to the media. The outrage was not confined to this country, having spread as far south as South Africa and as far east as Indonesia, where the Dutch embassy suffered a bomb attack the previous day (no one serious injured, but the West now panicked and outraged). Of course, like other similar mass hysterics, there was a deeper religio-political wound at the heart of all this.
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