Heil Juju! Malema not fussed about being portrayed as Hitler

2013-10-09 13:58

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The artist who painted the now-famous The Night Watch depicting the autopsy of Nelson Mandela has turned his attention to EFF leader Julius Malema – portraying him as Adolf Hitler and as The Godfather for his new exhibition.

He has also depicted Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as Batman.

Yiull Damaso is no stranger to controversy – along with Brett Murray and Ayanda Mbulu – and he continues to tackle political figures in his art.

Damaso’s The Night Watch. Picture: Denvor de Wee/City Press

Although his Mandela work was made in homage and was aimed at stressing the flesh-and-blood humanity of the former president, the same is not true of Mein Kampf, his Malema work.

“The show is making a political and social comment. We are frustrated and irritated with the way things are going in this country. As another artist on the show – Pacman – says, our freedom is being confiscated, people have become a cog in a wheel,” Damaso told City Press during a visit to his studio in Joburg.

For Mein Kampf (my struggle) Damaso has drawn over a photograph of a firey Malema addressing a rally, adding a Hitler moustache and fringe.

It’s a comment, says Damaso, on Malema’s power as a political orator – and a warning to people “to be aware of this power so that they don’t develop a mob mentality and go along with everything just to be part of the crowd”.

Damaso with his work. Picture: Denvor de Wee/City Press

He has made another piece called The Mobfather, commenting on Malema going to Marikana and, according to Damaso, exploiting the situation. “If people are already angry we don’t need him to go there and up the ante,” he said.

When contacted about the paintings, Malema laughed. “I’m nobody to be featured in art pieces,” he said humbly.

After having the work described to him, he didn’t bat an eyelid.

“Artists have got the right to express their opinions about the world as they see it. They have the right to tell their story and they must be encouraged to,” said Malema.

His only criticism was: “I don’t think this artist knows the politics of South Africa. Julius Malema didn’t start in Marikana.”

The EFF will be launching as a political party at Marikana this weekend.

Tutu features as a hero, depicted as The Dark Knight on a newspaper front page about him boycotting Tony Blair’s speech in South Africa. Damaso calls him “a mysterious figure fighting for justice”.

Comedian John Vlismas also has paintings on the show, showing distorted and disfigured people.

The mysterious Pacman (The PAC revolution) rounds off the line-up, with work under the banner African National Circus. It features scrappy, political collages attacking capitalism and political greed.

This is Pacman’s first gallery show after having worked as a public art activist producing, among others, anti-Obama street posters during the US president’s recent visit.

Speaking over the phone to City Press, he says he uses a pseudonym to protect his family.

“The system has let us down,” he said. “It is no longer about people but about the total control of corporate and political greed.”

The exhibition Cog in the Wheel, Spanner in the Works opens at Yiull Damaso Artists’ Studio in Craighall Park, Joburg, on Friday, October 18.

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