The British Museum has issued an apology following the unauthorized use of translations by writer and translator Yilin Wang in their exhibition titled “China’s Hidden Century.” Wang expressed disappointment on Twitter, stating that their translations of Chinese feminist poet Qiu Jin’s work were included without their consent.
The museum released a press statement acknowledging the incident as an “unintentional human error.” They privately corresponded with Wang and offered compensation for using the translations. Consequently, both Wang’s translations and the Chinese poems they translated were removed from the exhibition. However, the museum’s actions have faced criticism, sparking a broader conversation about the role of translators.
The British Museum, which previously stated it would not remove “controversial objects” from the display, faced criticism from Wang, who described the response as “erasure.” This raises concerns about the museum’s engagement with its curation and power dynamics with non-white contributors. The museum issued a statement acknowledging Wang’s request, removing the translations from the exhibition, and offering financial compensation. However, Wang disputes the sufficiency of the museum’s response.
As the story gains traction in Chinese and French media, with Wang’s Twitter thread being widely shared, it is essential to reflect on translators’ value and work. Translators play a vital role in allowing access to diverse worlds and imaginations.
PS: Apology from IIPLA for Wrong Interpretation
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