Ralph Mathekga

Mabulu's painting re-politicises Madiba - and it's necessary

2017-04-24 08:34

The controversial artist Ayanda Mabulu has struck again with yet another piece of art than can only be carried in a brown bag.

Mabulu has mastered the psyche of South Africans very well and once in a while he pushes a button, making us very uncomfortable and running for cover.

In his latest instalment, he raises the bar and brings Madiba into the picture, with Jacob Zuma engaging in a sexual act against the most beloved statesman to have ever walked the African soil. I am not shocked by Mabulu’s work and I think it is not indefensible.

In this picture of Mr. Zuma ‘raping’ Madiba’s legacy, Mabulu has actually re-politicised Mandela, piercing the veil of sainthood that Madiba has been clothed with since his retirement from politics as the president.

South Africans would go to great lengths in depoliticising Madiba, and Mabulu is having none of that. For him, South African politics is vulgar and Madiba has to be brought into this new normalcy of vulgarity of political intolerance and open corruption. 

Mabulu’s depiction is very explicit and outright offensive. But so are corruption and the current degeneration in our society.

What really got people up in arms is the idea of having Madiba depicted in that manner. One of the responses that have come out so far is that Mabula is actually a porn artist and not a ‘normal’ artist. There isn’t much outcry about the manner in which Jacob Zuma is depicted. Of course, President Zuma is the chief villain and probably the most despised leader on the continent, at least by pundits and those clever you-know-who’s.

Mabulu throws a spanner in the works depicting Madiba as a victim of rape or sodomy, whichever you prefer. This leaves Zuma haters confused because if they criticise Mabulu for explicit distasteful work against Madiba, Zuma will gain a bit of reprieve from this criticism.

One thing is for sure though and that is that the picture effectively brings Madiba back into the vulgarity of our politics where he is being seen normal to a point where he can be forced into a sexual act.

I understand where Mabulu comes from; both in style and substance. What I read into his latest painting is that his biggest offense is not explicit material, but the normalisation of Madiba as a way for us to reflect upon the current state of our politics. For that, I say to Mabulu: you go ahead and shock us out of our comfort zones because we need it and it does not necessarily have to be delivered in a manner we will agree with.

We need to bring Madiba back into our politics, and we should do it not in a superficial sainthood manner, but in a more practical way, as Mabulu has. As for the idea that Mabulu is a porn artist; our politics is just as vulgar and hardcore.  

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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