Sight overwhelms thought in SA: Jansen

2012-09-27 14:43
<em>The Spear</em> (File, City Press)

The Spear (File, City Press)

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Johannesburg - The shift in South Africa's society is its ability to mobilise sentiment and emotions rather than critical thought, Professor Jonathan Jansen said on Thursday.

"What drew the masses towards the Goodman Gallery was the powerful image of a protruding penis in a hyper-conservative society, where sight overwhelms thought," Jansen said at a SA Institute of Race Relations discussion in Johannesburg.

"So disturbing was the image that it had to be destroyed."

Jansen was referring to the two men who defaced a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

He said one of the men was "white and middle-class, and the other poor and black".

"Vandalism, in their minds, was sufficient in suppressing the ideas behind the painting and that is what happens in a socially illiterate society," he said.

Barend la Grange, 58, and Louis Mabokela, 25, are accused of defacing artist Brett Murray's painting The Spear at the Goodman Gallery on 22 May, by smearing it with red and black paint.

Jansen's address was titled: "Would the presidential penis have mattered if it were in a book".

He said the reaction to the painting was telling about the education of South Africans.

There was little attention given to attempts to infiltrate logic and debate into the public sphere, said Jansen.

However, hundreds of unemployed and disgruntled people could be mobilised on sentiment alone.

South Africa was a very visual and oral society, he said.

"If the painting was described in a book it wouldn't be the upheaval [that it was]."

Jansen is the rector and vice chancellor of the University of the Free State, and is an honorary professor of education at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Read more on:    jonathan jansen  |  zuma painting

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