Democracy is a fine art

I am one of those who feel that the controversial Brett ­Murray painting, <em>The Spear</em>, denigrates our president and is out of touch with the cultural context in which the majority of South ­Africans live.

Having said that, though, the more I reflect on the widely condemned or praised artwork, the more I am optimistic that our democracy is actually healthier than we think. This is proven by the very fact that the Goodman Gallery, although cognisant of the outcry that could follow the display of Murray’s work, went ahead and exhibited it. It was even prepared to defend its right to do so in a court of law.

Also confirming our constitutional democracy, the president’s legal team will argue in the South Gauteng High Court that his constitutional right to dignity and privacy has been violated.
In another country, the Goodman Gallery would have been shut down already and Murray would probably have been arrested, even executed.
One of the signs of a healthy democracy is the balanced tension that must exist between the government, the judiciary and the media. The day when these critical institutions of society begin to see eye to eye on every subject is the day we need to fear for our freedom.

<em>The Spear</em>, as a work of art, is “trivial and distasteful” (in the words of Mongane Wally Serote), but I am comforted that, in a democracy, such a work can see the light of day, even if only for a brief moment. &ndash; <strong>Motalatale S Modiba</strong>

 It is interesting that the ANC is demanding the same legal standard in its complaint about the Zuma “wang” painting as for the <em>Dubul’ iBhunu</em> song. Let’s leave aside the fact that the ANC has widely ignored the court’s finding in respect of the song. What is more interesting is the evolution of the left’s view of racism. A view often expressed in the apartheid years was that it was impossible for a black person to be a racist because racism was an exercise of power and blacks were powerless.

In the context of the original singing of <em>Dubul’ iBhunu</em>, the ANC was a largely powerless organisation. It used such songs as a substitute for liberation &ndash; understandable, perhaps, if not in keeping with the organisation’s nonracial tradition. In the apparently “new” South Africa, the ANC is now in power and can, in terms of the classic left definition, be capable of racism. Conversely, anyone expressing anti-government views is not in a position of power.Has the definition of racism shifted again?

We should rather focus on the harm done by the degeneration of public discourse (not a unique phenomenon to South Africa). In John F Kennedy’s time, his philandering was widely known but never reported. Yet Bill Clinton’s behaviour was fair game for the media and came to a head, so to speak, with the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Some attributes of a politician’s personality can and should be fair game, but there are obvious risks in reducing politics to gossip. In both the case of the ANC and Clinton, the fact that they betrayed the progressive cause and embraced neoliberal (or neoconservative, if you are an American) politics is an issue that is barely discussed.

The worldwide trend of savage, personal-attack politics is a fig leaf covering the sorry fact that the voter in many countries no longer has any real choice.
The ANC’s visceral hatred of the Democratic Alliance conceals the awkward fact that it has embraced liberal economics and the Reaganite trickle-down theory to a more extreme extent than the DA would if it ever achieved power. &ndash; <strong>Philip Machanick</strong>

 There is absolutely nothing artistic about Murray’s depiction of President Jacob Zuma. He simply took a picture of Lenin, doctored it by inserting Zuma’s face and, to generate controversy and thus free publicity, inserted private parts as well.

It is a poor reflection on all who call themselves artists. Real artists paint a picture from scratch and present something new to the world. Real artists need to defend their art because Murray has insulted them and people may start thinking all artists behave in this manner. It is an outrageous insult to art. &ndash; <strong>Thabo Thwala</strong>

 The art work portraying the genitals of the state president is not a laughing matter. It is a representation of our polarised society. This polarisation is a ticking time bomb.
Another dimension is the ruling party’s failure to deal with serious issues. The suitability of the ANC to run this country needs re-evaluation.

I have never heard of a country’s president being humiliated in this manner. Whoever is implicated in this incident must be prosecuted and tortured in a ferocious manner.
White people are compelling black people to fight back against racism in an exceedingly racist manner. &ndash; <strong>Mzukisi J Lento</strong>

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