Nudity has lost politcal potency

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Ayanda Mabulu with his painting, Umshini Wam (Weapon of Mass Destruction), in the background. Photo: Thomas Holder

Johannesburg - The reaction to a new painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed has been banal but in an interesting way, political analyst Eusebius McKaiser said on Wednesday.

“It's quite a beautiful thing - nudity has lost its political potency,” McKaiser said.

“In other words, people were shocked the first time because it went against their social norm, so when you see it again it can't have the same effect.”

McKaiser used the example of seeing a dead body for the first time.

It can be quite traumatic and a person might even need to get counselling, but when they see a dead body for a second time it is less shocking.

“It's good for art that it lost political potency because artists don't have to be afraid,” McKaiser said.

According to The Star newspaper on Tuesday artist Ayanda Mabulu's painting of Zuma wearing traditional attire and his penis exposed, entitled “Umshini Wam” (weapon of mass destruction) was part of an exhibition - “Our Fathers”.

The painting went on display at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town on Monday night.

The exhibition also has works of Brett Murray, whose controversial painting, “The Spear”, resulted in protests at Johannesburg's Goodman Gallery in May.

“The Spear”, which also depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed, was vandalised and removed from display by the Goodman Gallery. City Press published a photo of it on its website, but removed it following a public outcry. The Film and Publication Board gave it a 16N rating.

Mabulu's painting has received a more low key response.

McKaiser said another reason for this was because focus in terms of the news cycle was on the shooting at the Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana.

“There is a bigger conversation going on about inequalities, labour relations, and violence. 1/8This was 3/8 so incredibly larger that anyone who spent their political energy on this would look irrelevant,” he said.

Workers at the world's third-largest platinum producer went on strike earlier this month, demanding a monthly salary of R12,500. They have vowed not to return to work until their demand is met.

The strike turned violent and 34 mineworkers were killed on August 16, in a confrontation with the police. Ten people including two policemen and two security guards, were killed between August 10 and 12.

Many took to social networking site Twitter calling Mabulu an “attention seeker”.

Yet the question was asked why when Murray painted Zuma with his genitals exposed he was called a racist but Mabulu was called an attention seeker.

McKaiser said this could easily be explained.

“South Africans think, and wrongly so, that you can't be racist to people who look the same as you. I think everyone can be a racist, whether you are black or white, and can be racist to the same group,” he said.

This was why the race motive was not used. - Sapa


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