Minister snubs 'porn' exhibition

2010-03-02 14:13

Cape Town - The department of arts and culture has denied that disciplinary action has been taken against any staff members involved in a government-sponsored exhibition that arts and culture minister, Lulu Xingwana, found “pornographic”.

The Times Live reported on Tuesday that Xingwana had stormed out of the exhibition after deeming the work "immoral".

Her spokesperson read out a statement saying it was "immoral, offensive and going against nation-building".

However, a source in the department, who did not want to be named, told News24 on Tuesday that at least one staff member has been suspended from work and is challenging the decision.

Women in intimate poses

When approached for comment by News24, director of communications Mack Lewele denied that anyone had been suspended and dismissed reports that the minister’s main objection to the Innovative Women Exhibition was the inclusion of photographs of women in intimate poses by internationally acclaimed artists Zanele Muholi and Nandipha Mntambo.

The exhibition, which received a R300 000 grant from the department, debuted at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg in August last year and went on to show in Durban and Cape Town.

The ministry confirmed that the minister was so offended by some of the images that she elected not to address the opening of the exhibition and instead issued a statement expressing her displeasure.

People close to the exhibition have expressed disappointment at Xingwana’s reaction to the 10-woman showing, with one echoing sentiments by Muholi, reported in the Times, that artists’ creativity was being stifled.

According to curator Bongi Bhengu, the exhibition by women artists was meant to be their reflection of “where women have come from and where they are going.”

Homophobia

Emily Craven of the Joint Working Group, a coalition of gay and lesbian right groups, told News24 she had been disappointed to hear of the minister’s reaction to the exhibition, considering that it featured some of “this generation’s most talented artists” who, with their internationally recognised work, were "a credit to South Africa".

“Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the minister, as a person in public office, had the obligation to honour her invite and not walk out of the exhibition. By walking out she played into the panic around homophobia in the country,” said Craven.

She also noted that this broadened the debate around artistic freedom, restriction and tolerance and that the minister needed to explain her position.

“If you don’t like it, what makes you think it’s immoral?”

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