Czech exhibition showcases controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons

Photo: CTK

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo recently made world headlines when Islamic radicals killed its editor-in-chief and leading cartoonists. Now Czechs have a unique opportunity to get acquainted with Charlie Hebdo at Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, which has just launched an exhibition of more than 200 front covers of the magazine. I spoke to Leoš Válka, the founder of DOX, and first asked him what the thinking behind the show was.

Photo: CTK
“The basic idea is to allow the Czech audience see the actual issues of Charlie Hebdo magazine with their own eyes, to see for themselves and let them make their own opinion. So that was the main reason for us to do the exhibition.”

The jokes may be hard to understand without having the proper context. Do you provide the pictures with some kind of explanation?

“Oh yes. There is a full translation of all the texts on the covers. It’s true that without understanding these short texts it is very difficult to grasp the jokes. We also haven’t used the issues which require knowledge of the subtleties of French politics, especially some 10, 20 or 30 years ago. So the covers that we exhibit can be understood by the Czech audience.”

Photo: CTK
What exactly can be seen at the exhibition? How far do the magazines date?

“We start from 1969 and the magazine was established in the 1960.”

The magazines were never sold in the Czech Republic. How difficult was to get them? How long did the preparation of the exhibition?

“It took eleven days to prepare the exhibition, so it wasn’t that difficult but we had to be very fast. I have contacted old friends in France and they were willing to lend me their magazines.”

A similar exhibition in Belgium was cancelled due to safety reasons. What kind of safety measures have you taken and how serious do you think is any kind of threat?

Photo: CTK
“We took it very seriously. We consulted the Czech police and authorities and experts on terrorism. We also employed private security agency so the place is protected both from outside and inside. It’s very similar to the safety measured at the airports.”

The exhibition of Charlie Hebdo covers will run at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague until March 9.