The Spear - Brett Murray causes a stir

So, like all sociopolitical events in SA, I’ve been following the Brett Murray saga from Day 1. I recently reblogged the painting by Brett Murray. I’ve been having an inner arguement with myself about actually posting it, because in all senses, it could very well be an infirngement of Mr. Zuma’s dignity, but hey… I found a valid arguement to do it…

Today, the ANC has called for its supporters to stand by the party in their efforts to have the painting removed from the City Press website and from the Goodman Gallery. The party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said yesterday that the painting was “rude, crude … and racist. The painting means as black people we have no value … we are objects of ridicule.” (Read about it here)

Really? Come on now… If this is what the ANC Secretary-General is saying, then surely this is a reflection of what most of the party officials may be feeling and thinking. Why is this so dangerous?? Well, simple. Its dangerous because the party feels that they can pull the race card on almost every matter they don’t agree with. And aren’t we supposed to be passed this??

After reading a little more, I saw that Nicole Essers (Goodman Gallery gallerist) had every right in rejecting the request to remove the painting. She said that it was unfair for her artists and audiences, that her gallery is “a neutral space” and that its a place where artists can express their “voices of dissent” and confront sociopolitical issues through their art. Good on her. 

I thought about the painting, what it represents and what is being said about it. There are some really valid points brought up when arguing the matter from both side. 

For one moment, lets take the presidents side and assume that it definitely is a violation on his right to dignity. Its easy to see why. This is a painting depicting his genitals. AND without his permission. Whether he is the president of South Africa or a man on the street, this painting invades his privacy and right to dignity. That’s understandable, right?

But what about the artist? What about Brett Murrays right to freedom of expression? Something that brought the ANC and many other parties into existence? At some point, we are going to say something about some issue we have, in what ever way we may want to say it. Murray decided to say something through his art. Hes allowed to do that, isn’t he? 

In addition, since this is a dispute between two people - namely the artist whose exercised his right to freedom of expression and Jacobs Zumas claim that the painting infringes his right to dignity - WHY is the ANC even getting involved? This point was brought up by Sandi Sijake (ANC Veterans League President). And i stand behind it fully. WHY is the ANC putting their pen in the plate here? Why are they spending time and energy on this matter, and eventually our money in court, when it has very little to do with the party? This is a personal matter of Jacob Zuma. A very personal matter. Not a political-party-and-its-supporters matter.

In defence of the painting, Essers pointed out that the ‘first applicant” (that being Mr. Zuma) did not pose for the painting and that they genitals depicted in the painting was that of the imagination of the artist and not of the applicants. Therefore, the argument may stand in shallow waters because if everything was the imagination of the artist brought to life, then we could be very right in saying that the painting isn’t EVEN of Jacob Zuma. I could even say that the painting is a depiction of ME, Kirsten Leo. That may be a little far fetched, but you catch my drift here. Because though it looks like Zuma, it is not an actual photograph of him, and he did not pose for the painting either. It was all imagination (Powerful thing, ey?).

Brett Murray knows what he is doing. hes a seasoned artist whose lived through Apartheid and no stranger to satirical pieces. It seems as though Murray has a knack for displaying a public distaste in bad government, with intentions to provoke thoughts about it (read about it here). His work has provoked not just the new government, but the old government too. And though he does intend to provoke thought and bring attention to sociopolictical issues, he did not intend to hurt the ever-sensitive Zuma. 

Many, including Zuma, feel that the painting depict him as a ‘philanderer, a womaniser and wihtout respect’. What do you think?