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Johannesburg - Reaching into his jacket pocket, he said he was going to prove that security was not up to scratch. All eyes looked up at him as he slowly pulled out “the weapon” he would use to prove his point with.
In his hand was nothing more than a paintbrush. “I’m unarmed now, so you can all relax,” he said.
This was how one of the men who defaced the controversial artwork, The Spear, began to explain his actions.
Barend la Grange was speaking at a press conference in Braamfontein, Joburg, on Thursday organised by Citizens in Partnership with Government.
On May 22, La Grange and another man, Louis Mabokela, went to the Goodman Gallery and defaced the piece by artist Brett Murray. The Spear depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
Mabokela smeared black paint over The Spear with his hands, after La Grange had already painted one red cross over Zuma’s genitals and one over his face.
“I didn’t do it for moral reasons, I didn’t do it for the ANC and I didn’t do it for President Zuma,” said La Grange. He said he did it to defuse a “potentially dangerous racial division” that the painting caused.
The cross over the face represented his opposition to the ANC, and the one over the genitals to oppose what was causing “so much tension”, he said.
Initially, he approached the gallery to put up a replica next to Murray’s work with the crosses, but he claimed they ignored him. “The next morning I woke up and thought maybe I must do the real thing,” said La Grange.
He said he planned to plead guilty to the charges of malicious damage to property. He said he wanted to face the consequences of his actions and have the opportunity to testify in court. “There was a risk involved that I could’ve won,” La Grange said.
His case was postponed four times before the Director of Public Prosecutions offered him the opportunity to pay an admission of guilt fine.
“I must say I feel more nervous now than when I walked into the Goodman Gallery,” La Grange said before he addressed the media.