Artist defends new JZ painting

2012-08-29 00:00

CAPE Town artist Ayanda Mabulu claims that he is using his controversial new painting of Jacob Zuma to ask the president why his party no longer wants to protect the interests of the majority of people in the country.

Titled Umshini Wam (Weapon of Mass Destruction), the work — which depicts the president dressed in traditional Zulu costume and with his genitals exposed — is being shown in the AVA Gallery in the Mother City just months after the controversy surrounding Brett Murray’s painting of the president The Spear.

Mabulu, who depicted Zuma with his pants down and his penis supported by a crutch in a previous work Kungcono ihlwempu kunesi­bhanxa sesityeb i (Better poor than a rich puppet), said his latest painting was not motivated by an urge to unpack Jacob Zuma’s sex life.

“The painting depicting Jacob Zuma is a respectful one. He is clothed in his culture. He is clothed in his manhood,” he said.

“This is a metaphor that shows he is not a boy; he is a man, an elder, a father, a leader. An elder, who happens to be the president of South Africa.

“He is a representative of the ANC, which as a political party from my perspective, now represents its own interests, and less so, the interests of the people.

“Through this painting I respectfully, as one of his children, ask my father why he is starving us. Why he is negating his duties to his children, the citizens of South Africa?”

Mabulu, who has dedicated the painting to the miners killed in the Lonmin massacre, said that while he respected ANC liberation leaders like Oliver Tambo and John Dube, he wasn’t happy with the party’s new leaders and described the ANC as being “filled with greed and the lust of capitalism”.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian that they condemned the painting in the strongest terms and felt it was disrespectful to the president and his status as a father and a husband, made a mockery of his office and was an “absolute abuse of the arts”.

Khoza added that he could not rule out a reaction similar to the ANC’s response to The Spear.

Asked if she expected any problems as a result of hanging the work, Kirsty Cockerill, director of the AVA, said she hoped there wouldn’t be any drama.

“The artwork in question is more different than it is similar to Brett Murray’s Spear. The context in which it is displayed within the Our Fathers exhibition, is very different,” she said, adding that the exhibition looks at the issue of patriarchy in society.

Cockerill said the gallery has no plans to put security in place for the duration of the exhibition, which runs until September 21.

“The AVA supports and facilitates dialogue, if the AVA was to shy away from the difficult and sensitive conversations that artworks ignite, it would not be fulfilling its mandate [to provide a professional platform for artists and curators],” she added.

Mabulu’s work is part of the exhibition, Our Fathers, which also features work by Murray, whose painting of Zuma, pictured in a Lenin pose with his genitals exposed, made worldwide headlines when the ANC threatened the gallery and artist with legal action.

The Spear was later defaced by two protesters and removed from the walls of the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

• arts@witness.co.za

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