Aziz Hartley and solly maphumulo
A PAINTING of President Jacob Zuma in traditional attire with his genitals exposed went on display at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town last night.
Cape Town artist Ayanda Mabulu’s painting entitled Umshini Wam (Weapon of Mass Destruction) is part of an exhibition – Our Fathers – featuring the works of artists such as Brett Murray, whose controversial painting The Spear sparked protests against Joburg’s Goodman Gallery in May.
The Spear, another depiction of Zuma with his penis exposed, was later withdrawn by the Goodman Gallery and removed from the City Press website after the Film and Publications Board classified it as unsuitable for under-16s.
Mabulu is no stranger to controversy.
In May 2010, his painting of the late AWB leader Eugene Terre’Blanche’s head on a tray was barred from an exhibition in the foyer of Truworths in Cape Town.
Mabulu, who lives in Du Noon, said Umshini Wam – priced at R75 000 – did not show a lack of respect for Zuma.
“The painting depicting Jacob Zuma is a respectful one. He is clothed in his culture. He is clothed in his manhood. Only a Eurocentric viewpoint would see him as naked.
“He is not naked; I did not paint him with an uncircumcised penis. This is a metaphor that shows he is not a boy; he is a man, an elder, a father, a leader,” Mabulu said. “In this painting I’m engaging my elder in the language of my mother tongue, the language that carries the culture of my people, the language he understands the most.
“Through this painting, I respectfully, as one of his children, ask my father why he is starving us. Why he is negating his duties to his children, the citizens of South Africa.”
Dedicated to the miners who died in the Lonmin tragedy, the painting was intended to strip Zuma of his suit and tie and bring him to the level of ordinary people who suffered daily, he said.
“I represent people all over South Africa who feel the sting of what the president is doing to us.”
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said Zuma, like any other person, should be respected. “As we’ve said before, art cannot be used to insult and undermine the dignity of the president.”
AVA Gallery director Kirsty Cockerill said that if Umshini Wam provoked controversy as The Spear had done, the gallery would have fulfilled its mandate of facilitating dialogue. “Our Fathers is a curated exhibition with 24 different participating artists and 40 different artworks. There are many artworks that could be interpreted as insensitive, even if The Spear saga had never taken place.”
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa expressed shock at the new painting, saying The Spear had evoked emotions. “There were marches and this caused a lot of inconvenience. We don’t want to see this again.”
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said he had not seen the painting and he did not know the artist.
“Sometimes people think derogatory gestures are a beauty contest. If that artist wants to be in that contest, allow him.”