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Russian poetry and Kazakh music heavyweights in gay smooch 25 августа 2014, 16:55

The recent Kazakhstani ad showing a Kazakh composer and a Russian poet kissing has generated an outpouring of discontent in Kazakhstan.
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Photo courtesy of jolbors.com Photo courtesy of jolbors.com

Almaty advertising agency drew a poster with an image of great Kazakh composer Kurmangazy Sagyrbayuly and one of the greatest Russian poets Alexander Pushkin.

What are they doing? - Kissing.

The ad made by Havas Worldwide Kazakhstan has already caused quite a resonance among citizens of Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports. One of them, going by the nickname of Almaz Applez on Facebook has published a photo of a complaint that he filed to the Prosecutor’s Office. The complaint said the poster was “insulting the dignity of the (Kazakh) nation”.

"Things have been put in motion. The Regional Department of Internal Affairs has accepted the complaint. There was a prosecution officer there who said that this outrageous case had generated a huge public resonance, and the authorities monitoring the Internet would not miss it," he wrote below. 

According to the reports, the order for the ad was placed with the advertising agency by the LGBT community of Kazakhstan. However since there is no well-organised LGBT community in Kazakhstan that has the funding to procured ads, it is more reasonable to believe that the order came from the owners of the night club advertised in the ad. The poster advertises the place called "Studio 69", a gay bar and club located at the intersection of Kurmangazy and Pushkin streets in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. 

The address of the venue is the reason why the images of these two particular famous men were used in the ad.

The scandalous poster received attention after it was presented at Red Jolbors Fest, a competition organized by advertising professionals from Kyrgyzstan for Central Asian advertising agencies. The results were announced on 23 August. The poster in question was awarded the third place in the Outdoor Advertising category.

Immediately after this, the social networks exploded. Most people argued that the poster offended the image of the two great personalities and promoted non-traditional sexual orientation, the activity banned in Russia and not welcome in Kazakhstan. Many of the comments have threatened the advertising agency with a law suit and called the authorities to close down the gay club.

However, there were softer comments as well. Some even liked the poster and spotted "at least some creativity in the barren steppes of domestic oeuvre."

One of the creators of the poster, copywriter Valery Volodin has commented on the project. "It is strange that advertisers believe that there are forbidden topics. This work can make one proud. First of all because it works - people get the message and remember the address. Secondly, it is a bold work, and in the case of the gay movement, traditionally living on the edge, it is more than accurate and justified. The jury of #redjolbors fest gave it only a bronze award, and who are we to judge the judges. Bigotry, get out!" Volodin wrote on his Facebook page.

People stroll in front of the Benetton store displaying the controversial ad in downtown Rome. ©Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

The ad is similar to the Benetton’s fake kissing ad, which the clothing brand unveiled in 2011. It depicted computer-generated photos of famous world leaders smooching, including those featuring Barack Obama kissing Hu Jintao and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embracing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. There was even an add depicting a kiss between Pope Benedict XVI and the head of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb. This image was taken down in a matter of hours, however, after the Vatican threatened legal repercussions. The Benetton campaign was laconically named “Unhate”.

There is another picture, which the Kazakhstani ad is similar to. In fact, the visual resemblance to this one is higher than to the Benetton ad.

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love is one of the most famous graffiti art works on the Berlin Wall. Created in the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it depicts the so-called Fraternal Kiss, which was an accepted form of greeting between Eastern Bloc countries’ leaders.

People walk past a painting on the so called East Side Gallery featuring the famous kiss between then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev (L) and East German leader Erich Honecker. Berlin, October 20, 2009. ©AFP

This is an artistic reproduction of the photograph taken in 1979 that captured the moment Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker embraced each other during the 30th anniversary celebrating the foundation of the German Democratic Republic.

The similarity of the poster by the Kazakhstani ads agency to the Berlin Wall drawing is striking. Apart from a similar “plot”, the colors are also similar: blue background and red inscription. The colors of the faces are alike as well: redder on the left, grayer on
the right. Even the shades and the strokes of color, in particular in the hair, have a likeness.

The Berlin Wall art work is a social critique on the interplay between love and status quo in the undemocratic system. What is the message of this Kazakhstani ad with Pushkin and Kurmangazy kissing? Is it simply an add aiming to attract attention or does it have a message?

Even if the purpose of the poster was simple advertising, it got the attention of the public. Furthermore, the kind of attention it received is, probably, quite different from what the advertisers or the gay bar expected or wanted.

By Dinara Urazova

(Dmitry Khegai contributed to the story)


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