Kazakhstan: Artist Targeted in Crackdown

2 Feb

Kazakhstan’s crackdown on dissent, which has been unfolding since an ‘unsanctioned’ opposition rally in Almaty on 28 January, has seen performance artist Kanat Ibragimov hauled in to stand trial alongside well-known opposition figures such as Bolat Abilyov, Mukhtar Shakhanov and Gulzhan Yergaliyeva.

Kanat Ibragimov screams for democracy in Almaty on 28 January 2012

Kanat Ibragimov, unlike Bolat Abilov, escaped a prison sentence and was given a fine for daring to take to the podium and call for democracy. In the generally grey world of Kazakh politics, Kanat cuts a colourful figure with his history of protest actions. He posits himself on the side of art rather than politics, but his activities carry an edge that never fails to needle the authorities.

A panda meets an untimely end at the hands of Kanat Ibragimov, Almaty, January 2010

Kazaxia first came across Kanat at a rally in January 2010. The demonstration was protesting Chinese expansionism into Kazakhstan and Kanat’s response was to symbolically decapitate a toy panda. Other actions he has initiated include ‘A Fish Rots from the Head Down‘ in which he savages a fish with an axe on Almaty’s Republic Square. I wonder who the ‘head’ could refer to here?

While Astana can cope with any amount of shouting and barracking from the podium by the usual suspects, Kanat Ibragimov’s humour is an approach that the stilted grey men are ill-equipped to deal with. Fines and prison sentences will only spur this performance artist onto greater things.

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