Zuma plays the culture card

2012-05-24 06:49

President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers are set to argue in court today that Brett Murray’s portrait of him has infringed his right to dignity, from an African cultural perspective.

Zuma, his children and the ANC will square up in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg against the Goodman Gallery, City Press, and artist Brett Murray over the controversial portrait, The Spear, in which the president is depicted with his genitals exposed.

The case is set to be heard by a full bench and the ANC has called upon its members to come to court to show their solidarity.

Zuma wants the image of The Spear to be declared unlawful and unconstitutional and wants Murray, the Goodman Gallery, and City Press interdicted from displaying, exhibiting, publishing or distributing it.

He also wants the court to order the respondents to pay the costs of his application.

In his heads of argument filed yesterday, Zuma says a balance needs to be achieved between the right to dignity and the right to artistic creativity.

His lawyers will also argue that the portrait, from the cultural perspective of many South Africans, “represents an injurious assault upon and an impairment of (Zuma’s) human dignity”.

“The fact that the majority of these with such cultural sensibilities are African and regarded as species of an inferior culture and status is irrelevant in the objective analysis of whether or not an unlawful infringement occurred,” the court papers say.

Zuma’s papers speak of the “obvious collision of two world views, one regarding itself as superior and the other perpetually demanded to justify its legitimacy and the right to exist,” the papers say.

“We will argue that this state of affairs is driven by a class and racist superiority complex and the viewing of certain cultural sensibilities as inherently inferior and illegitimate.”

An open and democratic society, Zuma’s lawyers argue, “is also the one that seeks to recognise African cultural perspectives as (as) legitimate as the Western lenses which have inspired the suggestions that this case be dismissed”.

Zuma’s legal team will also argue that “antipathy towards an individual should never drive the analysis of whether or not such individuals are worthy of constitutional protection”.

The legal team took a swipe at City Press’s references in its answering affidavits to Zuma’s public admissions to having had sex with at least two women who are not his wives.

“The answering affidavit is replete with silly references to the utterances of (Zuma) in his other cases as if to suggest that such utterances of lifestyle are a legitimate and lawful way of limiting one’s right to human dignity,” the court papers say.

“These references are simply motivated by a misplaced belief that they will create or perpetuate in the court’s mind the sufficient antipathy towards (Zuma), for (City Press) to win the sympathy of the court against (Zuma).”

Zuma says that he doesn’t at all seek to curtail the right to free artistic expression.

But “it is the dissemination, display and further publication of the portrait that [Zuma] seeks to prevent”.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.