Raghubir Singh’s photo “Vendor and Clients, Bundi, Rajasthan, 1997” is shown in this handout photo. An upcoming exhibit featuring the work of controversial photographer Raghubir Singh will be accompanied by a display outlining sexual assault allegations against the late artist.The Royal Ontario Museum says it hopes to spark conversation with the concurrent program #MeToo & the Arts, meant to explore sexual harassment and gender inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Raghubir Singh, Royal Ontario Museum *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Activist disappointed in early version of Royal Ontario Museum’s .MeToo display

TORONTO — A woman who has accused the late street photographer Raghubir Singh of rape is expressing concern about how a .MeToo-inspired display for the Royal Ontario Museum will handle her painful past with the celebrated artist.

New York-based artist Jaishri Abichandani says negotiations are ongoing over how her story will be portrayed as one element of “.MeToo & the Arts,” an overview of gender inequity set to run alongside the exhibit, “Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs.”

Abichandani says a draft she saw Thursday describes her experience as “sexual harassment.” She’s calling on the museum to use the word “rape” and to include a photograph of her at a performance art/protest she staged last year at the Met Breuer in New York.

Press material for the ROM event also describes the allegation as “sexual harassment.”

Abichandani says the ROM initially suggested a photo of the protest that features a man in the foreground, instead of one she requested in which she is prominent.

“I found that to be kind of absurd (because) this movement is really about women,” Abichandani said Thursday by phone from Brooklyn.

“Yes, there are male survivors but the reality is the scale of violence towards women is just incomparable and this is about centring the voices of women of colour who have been subject to this violence…. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t use my story to make yourself look good and then actually misrepresent me and make me invisible, that’s just not acceptable to me.”

In a followup message, Abichandani said she would still support the display if the two sides cannot agree on wording.

The ROM’s South Asian Art curator Deepali Dewan said Thursday that “conversations are ongoing” with Abichandani.

“We are still actively working on the display and continue to engage in discussions about the content details,” Dewan said in an emailed statement.

Abichandani first revealed the allegations in a radio interview last October. Her claims have not been tested in court. Singh died in 1999.

In an interview Wednesday, Dewan said the display would include a “head-on” reference to Abichandani’s allegations against Singh, as well as a broad look at sexual harassment in the arts.

“It’s difficult because there’s pain on all sides and we wanted to make sure we proceed in a respectful way,” said Dewan, who noted the display also includes input from Singh’s family, who provided the photographs for the exhibit.

The ROM also formed an external advisory committee made up of leaders in the arts community and women’s advocacy.

Abichandani said she’s pleased with much of what the museum has done: “What response the ROM has given me has been the best of any institution so far.” She also described Dewan as “open and receptive.”

But she expressed disappointment over being denied several requests: that the .MeToo display include a video of her protest, a photo of a sign made for the protest and a 25-centimetre long sculpture that she made.

She says Singh coerced her into sex during what she thought was a work trip to India when she was 25 and he was 52.

“It’s rape. I’m not just out there protesting him putting his hand on my thigh. It was an instance of him completely entrapping me and isolating me in a country and basically refusing to hear my verbal refusal and coercing me into the situation which I just felt like I had to survive,” says Abichandani, now 48.

“And he followed that up with an entire year or two, I can’t remember the length of it, of verbal abuse and intimidation once we got back to New York. All of that to me is not encapsulated by the words ‘sexual harassment.”’

Singh is considered a pioneer for his use of colour film to capture street scenes in India from the late 1960s to the 1990s.

In the earlier interview, Dewan called the .MeToo display a “milestone” in the way the museum handles difficult content, suggesting this could be the new norm for problematic projects.

The .MeToo program will include video clips of arts professionals reflecting on gender issues. There will also be films, panel discussions and possibly live performances.

Both displays run July 21 to Oct. 21.

Just Posted

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in Edmonton for climate rally; counter-rally planned

EDMONTON — Albertans are planning to hit Edmonton’s streets today to support… Continue reading

Facebook CEO defends refusal to take down some content

WASHINGTON — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday defended the social media… Continue reading

Deep-sea explorers seek out sunken World War II ships

Deep-sea explorers scouring the world’s oceans for sunken World War II ships… Continue reading

Fewer than 850 irregular border crossers deported, hundreds more in limbo

Multiple options for appeals, diplomatic difficulties and changing global conditions mean only… Continue reading

Rural crime tour hits Sylvan Lake

About 60 people showed up to voice concerns about state of crime and punishment in Alberta

Your community calendar

Wednesday Red Deer River Naturalists Flower Focus Group Meeting. When: Oct. 16… Continue reading

Meet the candidates running in Red Deer-Lacombe

Each of the candidates running in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding were invited… Continue reading

Country artists bring tears, prayers to CMT awards show

NASHVILLE — Country music artists cried together and prayed together at an… Continue reading

Kawhi back in Canada, NBA GMs think he’ll go back to finals

Kawhi Leonard was back in Canada, where last season he won a… Continue reading

Saskatchewan Roughriders aim to bring home energy on the road to B.C. Lions

VANCOUVER — The Saskatchewan Roughriders are hoping they can bring the spirit… Continue reading

Alberta commits to expanding duties of licensed practical nurses

EDMONTON — Alberta’s 16,000 licensed practical nurses will soon be allowed to… Continue reading

Alberta legislation would unplug NDP plan to change electricity power market

EDMONTON — Alberta has introduced legislation to formally pull the plug on… Continue reading

‘A mess out here:’ Manitoba farmers struggling with wet crops after snowstorm

WINNIPEG — More Manitoba residents saw their electricity restored Thursday — one… Continue reading

Most Read