Art is dead! Long live Jacob Zuma’s penis!
A 1.85m high acrylic on canvas painting by Brett Murray entitled ‘The Spear’, part of Murray’s ‘Hail to the Thief II’ exhibition which hung in the Goodman Gallery until it was defaced on Tuesday afternoon with oil paint by two men claiming to be outraged at the depiction of the President with his genitals hanging out of his trousers, is a sign of the times. Our nation cares more about a painting and its perceived offence than they do about human life or the value of private property. Violent and destructive reaction has become more influential than the freedom of creative expression. In a nutshell, our President’s cock is more important than the life of the nation!
African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe said of Murray’s work “It’s rude, it’s crude, it’s disrespectful, it’s racist”…”if the artwork had been a white man depicted, the reaction would have been very different”…”As far as many people were concerned, black people were just objects”. South African Communist Party spokesman Malesela Maleka refered to the painting as “insulting, disrespectful. disgusting, and sadistic”.
National Interfaith Council of South Africa secretary general Thamsanqa Mvambo said “The freedoms for which many of our people suffered and died should not be abused by those who clearly harbour deep seated hatred for democratically elected leaders”. The Black Management Forum said the painting was an attack “on the culture of the majority, the black people of South Africa. It cannot go unchallenged”.
The South Africa Students’ Congress called it an arrogant attack on “the very value and moral systems of the majority of African people and many other religious persuasions”. The painting was also condemned by the Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the African Christian Democratic Party, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, and the Young Communist League, who warned that its members would march to the Goodman Gallery and destroy the painting.
In a country where communities have taken to necklacing anyone suspected of perpetrating criminal acts, it should come as no surprise that Brett Murray’s safety has also been threatened as a result of his exercising his legal right to paint an unflattering portrait of South Africa’s President.
As news of the defaced painting spread across the land, cheers among “our President’s” crowded supporters pierced the heavens in thanksgiving. After all, they would kill for Zuma, why shouldn’t they destroy a bit of annoying canvas? If the two men responsible for the deed had not succeeded in doing so, the Young Communists would have torched the Goodman Gallery on Thursday. All in a day’s advocacy for conservative African morality… our President’s dignity, at all costs!
The alarming trend of necklacing an alleged thief in Khayelitsha on Monday is not as important a rallying point for ‘the nation’! Rather support the empty vessel of an office of governance than the right of a citizen to endure a fair and just trial by court of law. It’s probably cheaper to set fire to a building than it is to initiate a campaign to reinforce the rule of law and humanity among impoverished disgruntled citizens.
I am ashamed of Jacob Zuma. I am ashamed of the African National Congress. I am ashamed of South African citizens who think spending taxpayers money to defend the President’s dubious honour OVER AND OVER is somehow justified in light of the very real destitution faced by millions of South Africans as a direct result of wasteful expenditure and fraud by members of this government.
I’m ashamed of myself for thinking our government has a heart. It doesn’t. It has plenty of pricks, bloated belly’s and brazen livers… but no heart.
Art is dead in South Africa! Long live the President’s penis!