‘Zuma Spear screams: politically frustrated!’

2012-05-18 17:17

An expression of our political times or immoral?

Views on Brett Murray’s portrait of President Jacob Zuma varied among visitors in the packed Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg this afternoon.

“It’s an expression of our political times,” said Thembisa Dodo.

“When you look at the work as a whole it screams, ‘Frustrated, frustrated, frustrated politically’.”

Another viewer, however, described the depiction as immoral.

Said Palesa Moloi: “There are no morals in this painting. I mean [the president’s] assets are just dangling out. Yes, he did wrong in the past, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated like that, especially by artists.”

Yesterday, the ANC’s lawyers sent letters demanding that the portrait be removed from the gallery as well as from the City Press website.

In the letter to City Press, Mchunu Attorneys wrote: “The morality of such an image is highly questionable, and we submit, unethical for the editors and managers of City Press or anyone associated with it to exhibit or display. The image is a clear affront to Zuma’s image, dignity and reputation.”

Moloi sympathised with the party’s pending action.

“The ANC is just trying to protect the rights of their president; they have a right to do that as a party,” she said.

Laura Tyrer is a viewer who did not agree with the sentiments of the lawyers.

“I think the president has done enough to harm his own dignity, without that painting. I don’t think it harmed his dignity at all; many artists depict naked figures and no one has complained about it, but because it’s Zuma they do.”

A scathing Dodo described the move as a sign of “political immaturity.”

“I don’t see why it should be taken off. Art is part of our freedom of expression; the ANC should deal with this in a mature way and address the problems raised here.”

Debate has also been raised about the media’s role in publishing the image, which some described as disrespectful. Said Moloi: “People need to know what’s going on (and there are some) who would never come to the gallery. (The published image) is for the people, by the people.” Malango Mughogho, however, criticised the media for its “lack of contextualisation” in publicising the image. “I think one of the mistakes of the media, which might have been some elements of sensationalism, was not putting it into context. Art is always in a context, but having seen the other images and art works, [the exhibition] is definitely talking about our political times and the lack of morality therein,” she said. “The immorality is there, in terms of abuse of power, money. It’s a very strong political statement.” [View the story "ANC goes to court over Zuma’s jewels" on Storify]

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