Exhibition organisers resist calls for removal of ‘KKK Orangemen’ painting

Posted By: November 05, 2015

Exhibition organisers resist calls for removal of ‘KKK Orangemen’ painting
 Marie Louise Mc Conville. Irish News(Belfast). Thursday, November 5, 2015

‘Christian Flautists Outside St Patrick’s’ by Joe McWilliams 

Main picture, Christian Flautists Outside St Patrickâ??s by Joe McWilliams. Above, a detail showing the section of the painting unionists claim depicts Orangemen in Ku Klux Klan garb 

Organisers of a prestigious art exhibition last night dismissed calls for an award-winning painting to be removed following claims that it shows Orangemen in Ku Klux Klan clothing.

Christian Flautists Outside St Patrick’s, the last major work by Joe McWilliams before his death last month, depicts loyalist bandsmen marching in circles outside a Catholic church in Belfast in 2012.

The Young Conway Volunteers band caused outrage after it was filmed playing the sectarian Famine Song.

However, the painting – which won a major prize at the annual Royal Ulster Academy (RUA) exhibition running in the Ulster Museum – has sparked controversy over a small detail in one corner.

The Orange Order claims it shows members wearing white Ku Klux Klan clothing in a “deliberate demonisation” of its cultural heritage. The order is seeking an urgent meeting with the museum.

“Members of the Orange institution are entitled to feel outraged that a major publicly funded facility should display such artwork which is deeply offensive to their traditions,” it said.

“As a worldwide fraternity, the order is proud to have autonomous Grand Lodges in West Africa, and with no colour bar, provide a social outlet for members in both Togo and Ghana.

“The institution would have no hesitation in condemning the extremist views of the KKK and to imply any comparison is as mischievous as it is insulting.”

The DUP said it would meet National Museums NI and described the KKK images as a “crude sectarian slur”.

The TUV also said it had written to the museum demanding that the acclaimed artist’s painting be removed.

However, the RUA rejected the call, insisting it “supports the right of its artists to unfettered expression”.

“Art works can be read in many ways but an obscure interpretation of a tiny detail, in a very large painting of a church façade and a pipe band, is no basis for a request to have the painting removed from public exhibition,” its president Denise Ferran said.

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