Nation divided over Zuma painting
A painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed is “sadistic”, the SA Communist Party (SACP) said on Sunday.
“The SACP is outraged at the insulting, disrespectful… disgusting, and sadistic so-called portrait of President Zuma by Brett Murray,” spokesman Malesela Maleka said in a statement.
“This portrait is deeply offensive and an extreme act of provocation to the overwhelming majority of our people. To us Brett Murray has simply crossed the line.”
The 1.85m-high painting titled “The Spear” is part of Murray’s “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.
Maleka said the SACP condemned people who defended the portrait under the banner of freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression has never meant freedom to insult and harm the dignity of another person,” he said.
National Interfaith Council of SA secretary general Thamsanqa Mvambo said the portrait did not help in bridging the divisions created by the country’s past.
“The freedoms for which many of our people suffered and died should not be abused by those who clearly harbour deep seated hatred for democratically elected leaders,” he said.
“At a time when we are attempting to heal the divisions of our wounded past, such images do not lend themselves to building social cohesion and national reconciliation. If anything, the painting has succeeded in
widening the wedge amongst South Africans.”
The SA Students’Congress (Sasco) said a homage to the portrait by cartoonist Zapiro validated Murray’s “obscene” painting.
“The less we say about the populism echoed by some actions of David Shapiro, famously known as Zapiro, the more dangerous the attack on our social cohesion becomes,” Sasco said in a statement.
“Notwithstanding the degenerate impressions his earlier depictions of President Zuma sought to fly through other cartoons, it was quite populist of him to validate the work of Mr Murray by venturing into the same inappropriate antics as well.”
The Sunday Times cartoon depicts Zuma in a similar pose to Murray’s portrait, but with a shower head protruding out of his pants.
Zuma’s daughter, Gugu Zuma, said in a statement to the City Press on Sunday that the portrait was “vulgar and lacks any trace of humanity”.
“We do understand that he [Zuma] is a public figure, but this is no longer political and instead infringes on his rights as a human being,” she said.
“As far as we are concerned, in our society it is only animals that stand naked, not human beings.”
Zuma’s brother, Michael, told the Sunday Times that the portrait was disgusting and had brought nothing but disgrace to the family.
“It’s the most disgusting thing that has ever been published or said about the president,” he said.
“As a family, we are still in shock, because in our culture the parading of private parts is something that is a shame and is considered as showing disrespect to that person and others.”
On Friday, the ANC launched an urgent court application in an attempt to stop the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and the City Press from displaying the painting.
The hearing would be held at the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday, spokesman Jackson Mthembu said.
The ANC earlier sent the gallery a lawyers’ letter demanding its removal, but gallery spokeswoman Lara Koseff said its lawyers had responded that it would stay until the show was over.
The painting was widely condemned on Friday by, among others, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, the presidency, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the African Christian Democratic Party and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union.
The Sunday Times reported that the painting had already been sold for R136,000 to a German buyer. – Sapa