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City Press will not remove a photograph of a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with his penis hanging out of his pants from its website, despite a threat of court action by the ANC, the newspaper said on Friday.
“We will respond to court papers when served. The courts will make a decision and we’ll abide by the court ruling,” City Press executive editor Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya said on the publication's website.
On Thursday, the ANC said it was “extremely disturbed and outraged by the distasteful and indecent manner” in which artist Brett Murray and the Goodman Gallery in Joburg were displaying Zuma.
The ANC instructed its lawyers to approach the courts to force the gallery to remove the portrait, City Press to remove the photo from its website, and for the destruction of all printed promotional material.
On Friday, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said they had not served court papers on the parties yet, but had delivered a legal letter conveying these instructions. If they were not heeded court papers would be served.
“We are waiting for the response,” Mthembu said.
The 1.85m-high acrylic on canvas painting titled “The Spear” is part of Murray's “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition at the gallery. It is a sequel to his 2010 exhibition “Hail to the Thief”.
A biography of Murray handed out by the gallery describes how he continues his “forthright attacks on abuses of power”. His bronzes, etchings, paintings and silk-screens formed part of a “vitriolic and succinct censure of bad governance”.
The works were Murray's attempts to humourously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite, according to the biography.
The Zuma painting, and a few other pieces, had already been sold.
The ANC said the painting violated Zuma's right to dignity. It said his dignity as ANC president, as president of the country, and as a human being had been dented by “this so-called piece of art”.
Goodman Gallery staff said on Thursday the exhibition, which opened on May 10, had been well received, with positive comments in the guest book.
The ANC was also challenging the use of the party's logo in a poster featuring the ANC's emblem with the words “for sale” printed on top of it and “sold” stamped across it.
“The vulgar portrait and the dismembering of the ANC logo… is an abuse of freedom of artistic expression and an acute violation of our Constitution, apart from being defamatory,” Mthembu said on Thursday.
Murray also took struggle posters and adapted them to read:
“Amandla, we demand Chivas, BMWs and bribes”; “Now you have touched the women you have struck a rock, you have dislodged a boulder; you will be president”; and “Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle for Chivas Regal, Mercs and Kick-backs”.
The exhibition runs until June 16.
Murray is based in Cape Town. – Sapa