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Every year, cities around German organize parades to celebrate Rose Monday (Rosenmontag). In Düsseldorf, the highlight of each parade has always been a display of satirical floats made by Jacques Tilly.
Tilly’s art, often pushing the boundaries of good taste, makes fun of influential political figures such as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, or Donald Trump. Media all around the world eagerly show photographs from the parade and none of the satirized politicians has ever complained about being the subject of Tilly’s ridicule.
This year, however, because of the pandemic and the ongoing lockdown, the carnival parade had to be canceled. Instead of roaming the streets of Düsseldorf, the platforms with Tilly’s satirical floats were put on display in front of the hall where the artist had built them.
Platforma karnawałowa przedstawiająca kryzys klimatyczny i koronawirusa. Rosenmontag - zapusty, ostatni poniedziałek karnawału w Düsseldorfie, Niemcy, 15 lutego 2021 Fot. Martin Meissner / AP Photo
Among others, this year’s floats featured Armin Laschet (the new leader of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the current Prime Minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) dressed up as Angela Merkel- which can be read as a commentary on the fact that as a potential successor to Chancellor Merkel, Mr. Laschet will largely continue her politics. Another float depicted the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny kicking President Vladimir Putin in the crotch. There was also a caricature of former US President Donald Trump, showing him as a pig being roasted over a bonfire.
Polish Diplomats feel offended
After the show, Polish diplomats issued an official statement in response to the caricature of Jarosław Kaczyński.
- We understand and respect the character of the local carnival, but it should not offend religious feelings and values which are especially important not only for Poles but also for many people around the world"- reads the statement which the Polish Consulate General in Cologne shared with the Polish Press Agency.
The matter of controversy is the cross that Kaczyński's figure uses as a hammer to drive a stake through the heart of a lying woman. An inscription on the woman’s dress says: “The right to abortion”.
The art installation is a clear reference to the recent verdict of Poland’s politicized Constitutional Court which practically banned abortion, setting off a wave of ongoing protests in defense of women’s reproductive rights.
A regular subject of ridicule
Kaczyński has been a frequent subject of Tilly’s art. In 2016, he dressed him up to resemble the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and had his boot kissed by a woman symbolizing Poland. The artist explained at the time that he wanted to "express his dissatisfaction" with PiS taking control of Poland’s Constitutional Court.
- As far as Polish democracy is concerned, I'm afraid it's not doing well- Tilly said back then. There were no official protests.
Later, Kaczyński was portrayed together with Orban – both figures holding a sickle and hammer. In 2019, Tilly’s float depicted Kaczyński crucifying liberal Poland. And again, no voices of protest from Polish diplomats- at least officially.
Can it be that the allegorical image of a cross is the sole reason behind the protest? Or is it maybe the criticism of the Constitutional Court’s decision? The Polish ambassador to Germany, Andrzej Przyłębski, is privately the husband of Julia Przyłębska, who chairs the Constitutional Court compromised by the ruling Law and Justice party. Mr. Przyłębski has always reacted very strongly to any criticism of his wife's work and has even threatened German media with lawsuits.
Nawalny i Putin. Rosenmontag - zapusty, ostatni poniedziałek karnawału w Düsseldorfie, Niemcy, 15 lutego 2021 Fot. Martin Meissner / AP Photo
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