Xingwana: But is it art?

The Minister of Arts and Culture, Lulu Xingwana, told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday that she was not homophobic, after reports of her storming out of an women’s art exhibition, with some works depicting lesbians, caused an outcry.

‘Contrary to media reports, I was not even aware as to whether the ‘bodies’ in the images were of men or women or both for that matter. My reaction was guided by the view that these ‘artworks’ were not suitable for a family audience. I noticed that there were children as young as three-years-old in the room,” Xingwana said in response to questions from the M&G, sticking to her previous stance that the works are immoral.

Zanele Muholi: Being (tryptich)

‘I was not aware of the sexual orientation of the pictures or the artists and my reaction was not based on anti-gay sentiments as implied in some media reports on the matter.”

The government-sponsored Innovative Women exhibition featured work by 10 artists including Zanele Muholi, photographer Nandipha Mntambo, and painter Bongi Bengu, who also curated the exhibition.

The incident happened several months ago, when Xingwana left the debut exhibition at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg in August 2009, before she was scheduled to speak.

The incident has since made headlines, but Xingwana slammed the media’s coverage.

‘Newspaper reports on my presence at the Innovative Women art exhibition have been mischievous, deliberately misleading and avoiding the facts,” she said.

Xingwana’s statement
‘In August last year, I was invited to speak at the Innovative Women Art Exhibition at Constitution Hill. Upon arrival at the Exhibition, I immediately saw images which I deemed offensive. The images in large frames were of naked bodies presumably involved in sexual acts. I was particularly revolted by an image called ‘Self-rape”, depicting a sexual act with a nature scene as the backdrop. The notion of self-rape trivialises the scourge of rape in this country.

To my mind, these were not works of arts but crude misrepresentations of women (both black and white) masquerading as artworks rather than engaged in questioning or interrogating — which I believe is what art is about. Those particular works of art stereotyped black women.

Further, as a public representative and as a South African, I uphold the laws of our country and the constitution. I have fought for liberation and women’s rights for the most part of my life. However, I believe the rights that have been entrenched in our constitution include the rights of children. This is why we have laws in this country that protect children against exposure to pornographic material.

I therefore would not, for any reason, be part of any tendencies that undermine the rights of people. I accept and respect the rights of people of different sexual orientation. The claims that I am homophobic are baseless and insulting to me.

I have not imposed censorship on any artists and the funding polices of my Ministry and Department are very clear. We support the arts in this country in general since we embrace and promote the policy of Arts for All and the opening of opportunities for all our artists, especially women and youth and those who have been disadvantaged in the past.

What I think is necessary in our country today is a long overdue debate on what is art and where do we draw the line between art and pornography. What do we wish to encourage as a community concerned about the imaginative possibilities of art to shape our nation and our future? South Africans last engaged in such a debate before the democratic era. It is time that we open this discussion in the context of moral regeneration, social cohesion and nation building.’

Tom Eaton
Tom Eaton works from Cape Town, South Africa. Columnist, screenwriter. Half my followers are Gupta bots. Andile Mngxitama says I have a "monopoly of stuff". Tom Eaton has over 99923 followers on Twitter.

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations