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Cape artist despairs for ‘illiterate’ ANC

Kwanele Butana

SATIRIST: Cape Town artist Ayanda Mabulu says a painting of Zuma's power could carry up to 100 penises.

A CAPE Town artist has slammed the ANC for its “dark and illiterate” reaction to Brett Murray’s portrait The Spear – which depicts President Jacob Zuma with his genitals bared.

Satirical artist Ayanda Mabulu, who also painted Zuma with his genitals bared two years ago, said yesterday that for the ANC to describe Murray’s portrait as racist was “portraying black people in a wrong way”.

“(The ANC) are dark and illiterate. They must go back to school and come back tomorrow,” said Mabulu.

He added that art does not know colour or race, as it speaks a universal language.

He argued that if a president disrespected the people he or she was supposed to serve, then there was no other way of depicting that president.

His own controversial painting, Ngcono ihlwempu kunesibhanxa sesityebi (Better poor than a rich puppet), was exhibited in November 2010 as part of a solo exhibition at WorldArt Gallery. The exhibition, Un-mute my tongue, depicted the desire of poor black South Africans to have their views heard and considered.

The painting featured Zuma, Barack Obama, Robert Mugabe, PW Botha, Nelson Mandela, George W Bush, Pope Benedict XVI and Desmond Tutu seated around a table, like in Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Zuma’s penis is supported by a crutch, a metaphor used by Mabulu for the perception that Zuma’s sexual escapades were out of control and needed help.

He said that as a young black artist he was feeling the sting of poverty and that he used art to depict what was going on in the country. “What other way of depicting the president than how he is understood in the township?”

He said people in townships had already been whispering about Zuma’s sexual prowess in their homes and that Murray’s portrait had amplified the conversation.

He praised Murray for his “powerful” portrait and said there was no room for “phoney metaphors” when it came to social commentary, but for artists to “depict the situation as it is”.

Moving from the premise that a man’s genitals symbolises his power, he suggested that to accurately depict how much power Zuma wields, he would have painted the president with anything between 10 and 100 penises.

WorldArt Gallery director Charl Bezuidenhout said Mabulu’s painting was met with mixed reaction as “some didn’t like it, but most did not feel offended and no one was upset”. Bezuidenhout said the Un-mute My Tongue exhibition was so successful that the works were sold out.

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