/ 29 September 2013

Ayanda Mabulu’s painting back on display at Jo’burg art fair

A file photograph of artist Ayanda Mabulu.
A file photograph of artist Ayanda Mabulu. (David Harrison, M&G)

A painting commenting on President Jacob Zuma's perceived role in the Marikana shootings has been put back on display at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, the Sunday Independent reported.

The organisers had removed Ayanda Mabulu's Yakhali'inkomo — Black Man's Cry from the exhibition, apparently to avoid jeopardising the government's financial support for the event.

The painting was put back up after photographer David Goldblatt — this year's featured artist at the fair — took down his work in protest.

"I had to make a stand against what is a threat to the freedom of speech," Goldblatt told reporters at the Sandton Convention Centre on Saturday.

"Self-censorship is a slippery slope that we know only too well."

The Goodman Gallery, which represents Goldblatt, and which displayed Brett Murray's The Spear painting, said: "As a result of The Spear saga, we … are aware that this incident has engendered a culture of self-censorship, which has become increasing ubiquitous in the South African art world.

"It is mournful that the FNB Art Fair is influenced by this undercurrent of fear for economic reasons or otherwise," the gallery was quoted as saying.

The fair's creative director, Cobi Labuschagne, said they had wanted the opening night to be about celebrating the government's work, rather than attracting attention to an "overtly political work".

Ross Douglas, the fair's director, said the work was not censored because of government pressure.

The painting depicts a kneeling miner with horns on his head. He is being attacked by a dog Zuma is holding on a leash, while stepping on another dying miner's head. A white man dressed as a matador stands over him, holding a South African flag as a cape and appears about to stab him with a sword. Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth look on, laughing. In the background is an ANC logo with blood dripping from it. – Sapa