Campus News

Conservative groups hold rally in opposition to controversial art installation

“I find the sculpture to be an abomination,” said protester and Tradition, Family and Property member Nathan Kinley. “The sculptor admitted to using satanic imagery such as the braids with the ram horns, which is a symbol of the devil. Whenever we see the devil, we are obliged to stand up against it.” | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Wednesday, dozens of protestors gathered outside Cullen Family Plaza to voice their opposition to the new sculpture installation on campus. 

Tradition, Family and Property, a non-profit Catholic organization, led the protest and held a prayer rally where they voiced their opposition to the sculpture, asserting its pro-choice connotations. 

The newly installed sculpture, Witness, part of the exhibit, Havah… to Breathe, Air, Life, intended to offer an abstracted and amorphous notion of the female body, according to artist Shahzia Sikander.

UH scheduled an opening celebration on Feb. 28, but canceled the event, citing the “unavailability of the artist” as the reason behind the cancellation in an email.

Student-led organizations, including the UH Young Conservative of Texas and Coogs for Life, helped organize the protest.

“We want to let the University know that the statue does represent what our beliefs are, and it does not represent the student body. I’m glad that the artist canceled and didn’t come, but we want the statue to come down because it was never approved by the student body,” said Coogs for Life president David Bartlett .

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion lobbying organization, also voiced their opposition. In addition to being present at the protest, the organization also published a petition on Feb. 7 calling for the removal of the sculpture. They argued the piece venerates child sacrifice. 

“This sculpture gives a message to students that abortion is the answer and should be celebrated. We are here to voice our side because the pro-choice position has already been honored with the statue, so it’s fitting for the pro-life side to show their stance,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, Texas Right to Life director of media and communications.

Although the majority of protestors rallied for the removal of the sculpture, others came to voice their opposition. Creative writing sophomore Derrick Cooper, defended the protestors’ right to dissent but cautioned against further division. 

“I support their right to protest, but for those people to come here to our campus to protest a statue that is for women and for people’s rights causes more division,” Cooper said.

The protestors opposing the statue argued that its symbolism veers into the realm of the occult and satanic imagery. They point to various elements of the sculpture, such as the horn-like shape of the figure’s braids, as evidence of a darker, infernal influence. 

“I find the sculpture to be an abomination,” said TFP member Nathan Kinley. “The sculptor admitted to using satanic imagery such as the braids with the ram horns, which is a symbol of the devil. Whenever we see the devil, we are obliged to stand up against it.” 

The artist, Sikander has not made a statement regarding the sculpture’s alleged satanic imagery, but alluded that her work is closely tied to ongoing discourse surrounding reproductive rights. 

“I like to believe that the function of art is to allow multiple meanings and possibilities, to open up space for a more just world,” Sikander said. “How we experience art, how we respond to it and how we interpret it is an open-ended premise.”

Amid the controversy, University administration has not announced any intention to remove the artwork, leaving the fate of the sculpture and the broader discourse surrounding it uncertain.

“By putting the statue here, I think it’s an insult to a lot of people because many students disagree with the message,” said political science senior Isaiah Cortez. “As an educational institution, we should be straying away from something like that.”

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  • Leaving politics aside, it looks satanic. How the hell this could’ve passed is beyond me. I wouldn’t want my child to attend UH because of such…vile things.

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