SA must understand legacy - Dawes

2012-08-14 10:16

Bloemfontein - Reactions to the controversial Spear painting of President Jacob Zuma has showed South Africa has a legacy its citizens must understand better, Nic Dawes, editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian said on Monday.

South Africans must leave space to handle the country’s past, new ideas and its differences, he said.
Dawes was taking part in a ‘Beyond the Spear’ panel discussion at the University of the Free State on the meaning of it democracy, dissent and dignity.

The controversial painting The Spear by Brett Murray depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

Murray reworked a Russian propaganda poster of Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for his exhibition Hail to the Thief II at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

Spear debate painful’

The painting created a storm over freedom of expression in art, the dignity of Zuma and even claims of racism.

Dawes said the painting also brought up questions of how South African’s deal and live with real pain.

“South Africa must live with its past,” said Dawes but it must leave space to handle it.
The Spear debate was painful.”

He said the debate should now be how to preserve space for the country’s ghosts and how its citizens could get the resilience to deal with it.

UFS Rector Jonathan Jansen said it was guaranteed that more Spear type moments would rise in South Africa.

“We need to understand it, what happened and know how to handle future Spear type moments.”

The controversy intensified after City Press editor Ferial Haffajee would not remove a photo of the painting from her newspaper's website. Haffajee said the ANC would argue later this year the song ‘dubhul’ibhunu, a struggle-era war-chant was art in court.

‘Don’t let politicians hijack debates’

The argument was the song was not meant to harm or inflame, but part of a rich cultural heritage. When it was sung today, it was in symbol, not in threat.

The Spear was art too. Symbol, not threat,” she said, adding that it was part of a rich cultural heritage of protest art.

Political commentator Justice Malala said the public should not allow politicians to hijack real debates for their own purposes.

“A (national) debate was taken away to achieve narrow ends. We lost the real debate somewhere in the process.”

Max du Preez, political columnist, said the two week public Spear debate was a giant leap for nation building.

“In a short period we learned more of ourselves as a country than in the two years before.”

We were viciously played - Haffajee

Du Preez said it also showed South African politicians were utterly opportunistic and reckless."

The politicians would do virtually anything, including messing with the country’s stability, to further their own interests.

“From now on we need to be [as a] nation far more alert, far more cynical about our politicians.”

He said the Zuma painting was rude and disrespectful. “It was meant to be, it was not honouring him,” he said, adding it was legitimate political comment.

The panel was in agreement that the ANC had hijacked The Spear painting incident to further Zuma’s campaign towards Mangaung.

“We were viciously played,” said Haffajee. “I would not take down that image knowing what I do now.”

She said the incident had shown freedom could be easily and quickly undermined and that the country should be extremely vigilant to protect it.

  • amanda.victor.92 - 2012-08-14 10:59

    South Africans must leave space to handle the country’s past, new ideas and its differences, he said. When do they fit in space to discuss the ongoing farm murders?

  • andre.vandeventer.16 - 2012-08-14 11:15

    This country has the worst leadership it has ever had. In one breath they claim to be democratic, but they really are so far removed from a true democracy. On the other hand they condone songs which incite violence and this violence is seen every day with the most horrendous farm murders being committed but the leadership ignores it totally. This is leading to normal people starting to act abnormally. This govermnent is to be blamed totally for the violence in SA. This has NOTHING to do with apartheid, but pathetic leadership!

      tgif.wtfaw - 2012-08-14 11:28

      Wow Andre you can sure wield a hammer , you hit that nail right on the head! - 2012-08-14 11:45

      If they were leaders yes, but all they are, are a pathetic bunch of money hungry losers, scheming and conning their way everyday. And the saddest part of it all is that the minority groups know this, but can't do anything about it, because the majority of the voters are uneducated, needy, helpless people who are easily manipulated by these dictator types. If Zipper takes second term this country is doomed. It will be a sort of go ahead for him and his brain dead schemes, The only real hope we have, and GOD forbid, is that malema influences the people to not vote for Zipper. Our future looks bleak

  • sello.more.9 - 2012-08-14 12:03

    One important lesson from the spear and I want to dissagree with esteemed professors, we need to communicate very clear. Without Zuma's Genitals Murray could have communicated his message, but he thought let me dra attention by drawing something else. Whilst this drew the attention, it took away everyother thing he wanted to communicate. I am of the view that, with all their baggage of Apartheid, whites are too insensitive when communicating.

  • neville.chamberlain.509 - 2012-08-14 12:09

    "Du Preez said it also showed South African politicians were utterly opportunistic and reckless." What we can with in this country is more unemployed politicians. And this applies to ALL politicians - I don't care what their ideologies are

  • phae.rayden - 2012-08-14 13:12

    I think we are sitting on a time bomb regarding this matter. If we don't find a way to teach people, on the one hand, how to recognise and allow others to express their cultural pain appropriately, and on the other, teach those in pain how to process and deal with it in a supported manor, we will never be able to move forward as a nation. South Africans are behaving like cornered injured animals and leadership manipulates these emotions to steer agendas. The museum saga of yesterday is a prime example of how a very valid cultural hurt became completely smashed into the dirt because it was said by Zuma, and all white readers could respond to was fear of loosing their colonial heritage, and rage at the countries atrocious mismanagement. South Africans should recognise they are in serious trouble when they react to paintings and museums, with this amount of rage and hatred.

  • Johan De Beer - 2012-08-14 15:34

    What a load of tripe

  • sifiso.msimango - 2012-08-14 16:45

    all these fancy comments by journos trying to justify wrongs are just bull sh****t, all they do, is dividing the country even further.

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