Three cartoons commenting on American foreign policy have been hastily removed from an exhibition by South African cartoonist Zapiro, after a delegation of Americans complained.
Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) had been commissioned by the Centre for Conflict Resolution to produce the 56-piece exhibition for, among others, members of the Washington-based Faith and Politics Institute.
When members of the Institute viewed the exhibition they complained and wanted the whole exhibition pulled down.
Shapiro slammed the removal of the cartoons as “outright censorship” and slammed the conference organisers for allowing a “McCarthyite close-minded attitude”.
“The action of the delegation is representative of the way some American politicians feel they have the right to determine what the public sees.”
“I have a gripe with the centre because they fought against the process, but then acceded to it.”
“I have never had this happen before. I was not given the chance to defend my work.”
The centre’s facilitator Alison Lazarus said consultation with Shapiro had been difficult, because, “the conference had already begun”.
Shapiro said he would have preferred the exhibition to have been cancelled, as its integrity had been compromised.
Lazarus said the Americans had first requested “quite animatedly” that the entire exhibition be taken down. She said the centre was “very uncomfortable” with this request, and compromised by removing three cartoons that lampooned American foreign policy.
Lazarus said the exhibition was intended to foster both intellectual and emotional debate and felt that even though the images had been removed, the blank spaces they left still fostered discussion.
The conference was attended by members of the US congress and South African Parliament, and members of civil society -â€’ with much criticism being levelled at the US delegation for their country’s current foreign policies.
Lazarus said she felt that this hard-hitting criticism added to the US delegation’s request, who possibly felt the need to appear patriotic in the face of constant criticism. She added that the delegation had been told that the conference was not a public relations exercise, and to expect to be exposed to negative sentiments from South African delegates.