Zuma is no paragon of virtue: Haffajee

2012-05-18 15:43
The ANC is prepared to go to court over this portrait of President Jacob Zuma in the pose of Lenin. Picture: Goodman Gallery

The ANC is prepared to go to court over this portrait of President Jacob Zuma in the pose of Lenin. Picture: Goodman Gallery

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Johannesburg - Asking City Press to remove a picture of a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed from its website would be censorship, editor Ferial Haffajee said on Friday.

"As journalists worth our salt, we can’t. Besides, the horse has bolted. We published on Sunday," said Haffajee on the paper's website after the ANC demanded that the picture of Brett Murray's painting The Spear be removed.

The red-yellow and black painting depicts Zuma mimicking a pose by Vladimir Lenin in a Soviet era propaganda poster, but with his penis exposed.

"The man driving this latest nail into the ANC’s commitment to free expression is Jackson Mthembu, who was recently arrested for drunk driving at 07:00 on a busy highway.

"He is no paragon of virtue and neither is our president, who has done more to impugn his own dignity than any artist ever could.

"But mostly, I will not have my colleagues take down that image because the march away from progressive politics to patriarchal conservatism is everywhere."

A group in the newspaper's office had wanted the picture to lead their arts section, but too many people in the office had objected on grounds that ranged from it being a family paper, to concerns about dignity and cultural values.

We are Mzansi, not Afghanistan

Instead, it was run inside the newspaper, covering his "indignity" with a price tag.

The Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, which was hosting the exhibition, also refused a request by the ANC to remove the painting and destroy printed promotional material.

The ANC said if these requests were not met, they would go to court to have the painting removed, the image taken off the website and printed material destroyed.

Haffajee said although the Constitution protected artistic expression as a subset of free expression, it was not going to be tested by "still-lifes of bowls of flowers".

She stated upfront that her objection to removing the picture is her own, and she didn't expect her colleagues to accept it.

South Africa is "sexually aware, satirically sussed and progressive" with a president known for having many wives.

"I’m tired of the people who desire to kill ideas of which they do not approve. Besides, our morality and good practice is selective.

She added: "We are Mzansi after all, not Afghanistan, where they bulleted [sic] the Buddhas of Bamiyan because the art did not conform to what the rulers believed it should be."

Hafajjee said she would not hang the painting in her lounge though.

- SAPA

Read more on:    goodman gallery  |  anc  |  city press  |  ferial haffajee  |  art  |  media  |  zuma painting
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