Murray refuses to comment

By Drum Digital
24 May 2012

Controversial artist Brett Murray on Thursday refused to comment on his artwork that led to widespread anger, and a subsequent court action by a "hurt" President Jacob Zuma.

"I have no comment," he told Sapa on the telephone.

Murray's attorney Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, who previously represented journalist Carien du Plessis in a hate speech case against former ANC Youth League spokesman Floyd Shivambu, said she would not comment either.

"We don't want to comment on how he [Murray] is feeling, I hope you understand."

Murray's painting -- "The Spear" -- which exposes Zuma's genitals generated a national debate after it showcased at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg last week.

The artwork formed part of Murray's exhibition "Hail to the Thief II".

The gallery later closed its doors after the portrait was defaced by two people, who were later arrested.

A third person was apprehended outside the premises.

The three have appeared in court and have had their cases postponed.

Zuma said he was hurt, shocked, and felt personally offended and violated when he saw a copy of the painting for the first time, according to a report in the City Press, which had put up the controversial painting on its website.

Zuma said the art piece depicted him as “a philanderer, a womaniser and one with no respect”.

He together with several others, including his children, filed an urgent application to have the art work removed from the gallery and the newspaper's website.

In an affidavit, Murray, a Cape Town artist, said his artwork was never meant to hurt anyone.

"I never intended the artwork to cause any hurt or to harm the dignity of any person," he said in the document, according to the Cape Times.

Okyerebea's said she would not release the affidavit to the media as the case was "sensitive".

The newspaper said in it, Murray was quoted as saying his work was "an attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy within the context of other artworks in the exhibition and within the broader context of South African discourse".

He added that during apartheid he had created satirical images which attacked abuses of power.

He said he had used, and would continue to use, symbols with sexual connotations representative of political power and patriarchy.

Earlier, Zuma's application was heard at the Johannesburg High Court where his lawyer advocate Gcina Malindi broke down in tears.

The case was postponed.

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