Satire is controversial

2012-06-02 13:24

The national uproar over Brett Murray’s painting and the mobilisation of the masses to boycott City Press is not only off the mark and embarrassing, but shows how we are failing as a nation to come to terms with art – especially satire – and the media.

It is laughable that people think that satire can be censored.

I had to pen this piece after hearing one of my learned friends, a trained auditor, say: “I am sad about the painting because it arouses national anger.

Brett is a racist. I will be satisfied if the artist paints his mother or father in the same way he has painted Zuma.”

Satire by its very nature is powerful and controversial, so it requires us to approach it with our heads and not with our hearts – otherwise, we will suffer from “the crisis of the heart”.

Brett Murray is a genius in satirical graphic literature. His artwork is complete, perfect.

It says to us as a nation: “This is how the president is conducting himself. Are you happy with this conduct? Does he respect the presidency? Can we reconcile freedom of speech and the need to protect a person’s right to human dignity? Is our Constitution perfect? Was it written by angels?”

Brett is the conscience of our time. In satire, no one and no practice is holy. Nothing is sacred.

Chinua Achebe was right when he asserted: “Art should be accountable to no one. Art needs to justify itself to nobody.”

The fate dished out to City Press is also comical. Why shoot the messenger?

And why now and not when the newspaper was reporting on Julius Malema and Premier Cassel Mathale?

Unfortunately, the hour has come, but not the nation.

We should be ashamed of being a “democratic nation” that crucifies its artists and newspapers.

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