From the sublime to the angry: Lebo Mashile

2012-05-26 19:23

‘I am here with my mother and sisters, and we are fighting,” said poet and spoken word artist Lebo Mashile when City Press phoned her this week about The Spear.

“This thing is pulling families apart! My mother says I’m selling out because I won’t condemn Murray, but I can’t speak against freedom of speech.

“Plus it’s a right that only comes alive when it’s pushed to the limits. I fully support him and City Press
in this.”

Mashile barely pauses to take a breath and then plunges on.

“My questions are about whether Murray is being subversive or abusive, but either way it’s a debate we should be having.

“I personally think The Spear is problematic and opportunistic. From what I’ve seen online, he’s taking struggle iconography and subverting it. I understand because I know the original images.

“But I’m also listening to all the kids on my Twitter timeline. They don’t know the originals. The work seems like an affront to them.

“In the absence of conversation about Lenin and about the Women’s March, you start to understand why people feel it’s just abusive.”

Mashile’s biggest beef with The Spear, though, is that it’s too simple.

“What he’s doing is taking what Zuma’s doing and saying it’s as bad as what apartheid did. Please. Is the ANC really like a dictatorial czar? Then why do we have the Constitution we do?

“No. I think some white liberals are desperate to equate the ANC’s failures with the entire apparatus of apartheid. That’s just whack; it’s not subversive.”

So Mashile doesn’t support the work?

“No man. I’m divided. I think he should have a public conversation about it. I also think that the president’s sexuality is already in the public domain.

“If he was doing his job and running the country properly, he wouldn’t open himself up to this.”

So she feels the president’s dignity hasn’t been harmed?

“Yes, but again, his sexuality is his choice and he’s protected by the same Constitution as Murray. He’s not holding a gun to these women’s heads.

“I told you, this thing isn’t simple. When I end this call, I’ll go back to fighting with my mum.”

With an exasperated laugh, the nation’s poetic darling ends the call.

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