Sheffield pupil’s anger over breastfeeding artwork display move

Picture shows Martha Armitage of Sheffield, a pupil at Tapton School. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk
Picture shows Martha Armitage of Sheffield, a pupil at Tapton School. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk

A Sheffield pupil has slammed her school’s decision not to display her painting of a breastfeeding mother in a prayer room.

Martha Armitage’s artwork has instead been placed in the finance office at Tapton Secondary School in case it offended Muslims using the prayer room during Ramadan.

Picture shows the artwork created by Martha Armitage of Sheffield, a pupil at Tapton School. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk

Picture shows the artwork created by Martha Armitage of Sheffield, a pupil at Tapton School. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk

Martha, aged 18, hit out at the decision not to put up the work in a conference room, which is being used for prayers during Ramadan.

She said: “My school should see my paintings as normalising breastfeeding. The more it is seen then the more acceptable it will be.

“I was breastfed as a child, as were my three brothers, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

A statement from Tapton’s headteachers, Claire Tasker and David Dennis, said they are proud to run an inclusive school and added: “We made the decision, as it was during Ramadan, not to put the images of breast feeding into this room.

“The pieces are on display in the finance office, which is frequented by far more staff and students on a daily basis.”

“Before that they were on display in our art rooms and admired by all. We have invited Martha to come into school to discuss her concerns – this is always the better way forward.”

Martha, who works part-time in a cafe, chose her subject of ‘Mother and Baby’ after being given four choices for her A Level finals.

Her sister-in-law, Kim Houton, 20, had given birth to her second child, Ivy, who is now five months old.

Martha took photographs of Kim and Ivy together, with Kim happy to take her top off to show the intimacy between a mother and her newborn baby.

Martha then took the photos into the exam room with her, where her work was produced over four three hour exam sessions.

Her family, including her dad, Alex, 44, who is a head of art, and mum, theatre nurse Mandy, 43, are immensely proud of what she has produced.

Martha says was not even informed by the school of the decision, instead she noticed her work was not on display in the prayer room when she went to the school to collect her prom tickets.

She said: “I don’t understand why it’s offensive. Muslim pupils at my school have told me they’re not offended by it. I don’t understand why the school were jumping to conclusions – they’re just being overly sensitive.

“The school think it’s respecting the tolerance of Muslims during Ramadan because my pictures show nipples, but if I showed a baby being fed by bottle it would be fine, they are promoting the wrong thing.

“They are censoring my work because it involves a bit of nudity. Why are they looking at the painting for the nipple? And not the concept of a mother bonding with her baby?”

Martha is a keen artist with an interest in artists and galleries. She hopes to go on to do an art foundation course and then on to art college.