​Ayanda Mabulu defends Zuma-Gupta painting: We must expose the naked truth

Ayanda Mabulu's has sparked fiery debate in the past. (David Harrison, M&G)

Ayanda Mabulu's has sparked fiery debate in the past. (David Harrison, M&G)

Ayanda Mabulu is no stranger to controversy, but he might have outdone himself this week in terms of pure shock value.

In his latest exhibition at Constitutional Hill, one of the paintings continues his tradition of portraying President Jacob Zuma in compromising, arguably degrading, positions. Atul Gupta, Zuma’s longtime ally, is seen bent over naked while president Zuma performs analingus on him.

An ANC flag hangs in the scene – a plane’s cockpit, a not-so-subtle metaphor for capital flight.

  • See the graphic painting HERE

The painting fuelled debate on social media, with Mabulu receiving plenty of flak for his “disrespectful” and “disgusting” painting from some corners, whereas others praised his bold stand.

On Wednesday morning, Mabulu defended his artwork and explained why the graphic nature of it is appropriate.

In an interview on PowerFM, he said that his paintings are merely manifestations of South Africa’s realities.

“What I’m trying to do with my paintings is look at the political realities of state capture and capital flight in the democratic South Africa. The only thing I wanted to do with the painting is to show what people are already talking about, but I depicted it in a painting, as simple as that.”

Asked why he found it necessary to portray genitalia to get his point across, Mabulu said politicians should be exposed for what they really are.

“Some people wear masks every day. Some masks are political masks and some masks are corporate masks.

“When you’re looking at the politicians of the country, they wear those masks and go into the public and talk to the people and lie to the people. So I’m using these private parts to say: ‘You know what, let us show what’s behind the masks, let’s expose what’s behind the masks.’

“Let me say to the politicians and candidates: ‘Take off your mask and come to the people so that people can see who exactly you are.’

“Don’t lie to the people, they are not fooled.”

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian in 2012, Mabulu gave a similar explanation for his similarly controversial uMshini Wam painting.

“The ANC represents the masses. The ANC fought against apartheid for our people. It is not meant to be a Zulu or one person. The reason why I painted him like that is to say to him: ‘I’m stripping you of the suit, of the shirt or tuxedo that is a status symbol in the food chain. I’m dressing you in your own fashion. I’m talking to you with a native tongue. I’m talking to you in our dialogue, in a language you understand. Come back to the people. Put away the uniform that makes you the president and serve the people that you are supposed to serve.’ He is leading the people and they are so poor. Being rich is not the thing we want. There is a certain standard of living that we all have to acquire.”

See the full PowerFm interview below.

Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham

Luke Feltham is the online day editor at the Mail & Guardian. He studied political science at the University of the Witswatersrand and is the cofounder of YLA and the New Dystopians podcast.  Read more from Luke Feltham


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