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Murray's artwork: a weapon for character assassination

25 May 2012, 09:28

Freedom of Expression is not imperative than individual human rights, the portrait of President Jacob Zuma is abhorrent, degrading and it reprehensibly undermines his dignity and integrity as the President of the country and as a South African citizen, writes Proffesor Ndawonde

The South African constitution which protects and celebrates individuals’ human rights, among others, is the foundation on which our democracy is built.  It is therefore, incumbent on all of us to exercise our rights responsibly and in a respectful manner.

It is utterly regrettable for Brett Murray and Goodman Gallery owners to use the notion of Freedom of Expression to shield their discourteous comportment.

Murray’s portrait of President Zuma is dehumanising, discourteous and it ultimately undermines the esteem of the highest office in the land and impugns on the President’s constitutional right to dignity

Murray should have been cognisant of the fact that before he is a President of the country, President Zuma is also a human being and like all of us he is equally protected by the constitution and also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The country’s Constitution stipulates clearly that everyone, including President Zuma himself, has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.  The painting purposefully violates this section of the constitution.

It should also be observed that the government under President Zuma’s leadership respects artists’ rights to freedom of expression; however these rights need to be exercised responsibly without violating the rights of other people.

Additionally, Murray’s impudent piece of art has not only been censured by millions of ordinary South Africans or members of the African National Congress but also by several members of the forth estate, who are the vanguards of the Freedom of Expression.

This clearly insinuates that Murray has crossed the line and he cannot therefore use the notion of Freedom of Expression to protect his solecisms. As they claim to be responsible citizens, Murray and Goodman Gallery management must swallow their pride and apologize to President Zuma and to the public and immediately destroy the picture.

The portrait is against the grain of African morality, culture and the spirit of Ubuntu as well as nation building and has no place in South Africa and it is against the Universal Declaration of Human rights. 

This portrait doesn’t add any value as far as the advancement of democracy is concerned, it doesn’t create revolutionary dialogue.  What exactly Murray is trying to address with this offensive portrait?

Absolutely nothing, he is just insulting the public by assassinating the character of its President. The President’s stature to uphold the Constitution is undermined and demeaned by Murray’s artwork.

The Goodman Gallery must remove this invasive art-work. The media must also stop the dissemination of this impertinent portrait. It is also vital for of the fourth estate to be more cautious in what they publish as we all rebuild a South Africa that was withered by apartheid.

Proffesor Ndawonde is an Ass Director: Media Engagement at Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and is writing in his personal capacity

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