‘Abuse of the arts’: ANC bristles at new Zuma painting

"We condemn this painting in the strongest terms. Any portrayal of President Zuma in this way is disrespectful," ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian. "It makes a mockery of the president's office, his status as a father and a husband, and is an absolute abuse of the arts."

Ayanda Mabulu's painting Umshini Wam (Weapon of Mass Destruction), currently on display at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, depicts Zuma in traditional Zulu garb with his right leg raised and pointing forward, exposing his genitalia and part of the presidential buttocks.

It is priced at R75 000 and forms part of the gallery's Our Fathers exhibition, curated by Kirsty Cockerill and Chantal Louw. The exhibition features work from 24 artists including Mabulu and Brett Murray, whose painting The Spear was the subject of protests against Johannesburg's Goodman Gallery in May, culminating in the defacing of that artwork, as well as a "16N" certification issued by the film and publications board.

The Spear depicts Zuma with his genitals exposed and formed part of artist Brett Murray's Hail to the Thief II exhibition at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The artwork caused a national outcry and was labelled racist by the ANC and its alliance partners, who sought an urgent court interdict to prevent the painting from being exhibited or published.

Louis Mabokela and Barend la Grange stand accused of vandalism after the pair defaced The Spear by smearing paint all over the offending image.

The ruling party abandoned their interdict application and instead embarked on mass action against Murray, the Goodman Gallery and the City Press – who published pictures of the Spear.

Murray was vilified, the newspaper boycotted and the ANC led a mass march on the Goodman gallery demanding the painting be destroyed.

The matter was eventually brought to a close after intense negotiations between the gallery and the ruling party, where it was agreed the painting would no longer be exhibited.

Murray also apologised for any harm he may have caused and the City Press removed the image from its website.

Khoza said the party was still considering the Umshini Wam painting, but he could not rule out a reaction similar to the ANC's response to The Spear.

"We will certainly be taking this up with our structures. This type of thing should not be allowed," he said. 

Khoza said the ANC felt the art piece could not be excused under the pretext of artistic impression.

"If a man finds it necessary and artistic to portray nakedness, why doesn't he reveal and paint his own manhood? Then we could consider thinking about this artistically," Khoza added.

The arts and culture ministry, which led moves to have The Spear painting censored by the Film and Publication Board, said there were no plans as of yet to respond to Mabulu's piece.

"We have not seen the painting, but we will comment if we choose to do so," Percy Mthimkhulu, spokesperson for Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, told the M&G

In response to reaction to the painting, Mabulu said he did not intend to insult Zuma or the ANC.

"The painting depicting Jacob Zuma is a respectful one. He is clothed in his culture. He is clothed in his manhood," he said in a statement.

Mabulu added he was merely questioning the current status quo.

"I respect the ANC liberation elders," he said. "They worked for the interests of the people. [But the ANC of today] is filled with greed and the lust of capitalism. You are reacting defensively; you are saying you are being attacked. I'm not attacking you; I'm respectfully asking a question," he said.

Click here to see the full Umshini Wam (Weapon of Mass Destruction) by Ayanda Mabulu

 

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Nickolaus Bauer
Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.

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