Art by Westville Boys’ High matric pupils that depicts prominent ANC leaders in satirical images on T-shirts have come under fire from the provincial ANC, which on Tuesday said they were “despicable” and bordered on racism.
The T-shirts, which included depictions of Nelson Mandela, President Jacob Zuma, Bheki Cele and Julius Malema, were part of an art exhibition at Westville Village Market on Tuesday.
They were created by Grade 12 pupils for their final matric exams and include Zuma posing as the Bakersman – emblem of Bakers Biscuits – with the word “Fakers” over his head.
The ANC said the T-shirt labelled leaders of the movement as “fakers since 1994”.
“We were shocked when we saw these T-shirts bearing faces of President Jacob Zuma, president Nelson Mandela and ANC NEC (national executive committee) member and former police commissioner Bheki Cele with derogatory captions,” said provincial ANC spokesman, Senzo Mkhize.
“We view this as an attack on the ANC and on the country since the South African flag is featured in the background.”
Mkhize said the ANC was told by Westville Village Market management that the T-shirts were handed over by teachers to be displayed as artworks near the entrance of the mall.
“It is unacceptable for a school’s management to allow individuals with their own agendas to ridicule and insult the leadership of the country in this manner,” he said.
“We strongly believe that the people involved in this despicable deed, which borders on racism, have a personal vendetta against the ANC and are now using innocent pupils to further their narrow venomous interests.”
The ANC called on the school to investigate. “We… cannot allow people who are hell-bent on employing underhand tactics to fuel hatred that reminds us of the dark days of apartheid,” Mkhize said.
“It is also worth noting that while a section of teachers were rejoicing at the sight of these T-shirts, some, together with many residents, shared our anger.”
Trevor Hall, headmaster at Westville Boys, said the school was committed to a non-racial democratic South Africa.
“We give the greatest respect to the constitution, and the rights enshrined therein resonate within the learning environment that we facilitate. I note that the artwork of some of our learners, in the form of printed T-shirts on display, has caused offence to a political party.”
Hall said the visual art syllabus included a section on social and political commentary.
“Learners wishing to explore this section have, for many years, made art expressive of a wide range of opinions. No particular political or social bias is encouraged. Pupils are free to make their own commentary on society, as is their right. The display of the T-shirts in question was not intended to offend in any way and we apologise to the extent that any offence was caused.
“The items were part of a static display and were not for sale, nor were they being worn by anyone. They were removed as soon as a complaint was received,” he said.
“We reject the allegation that educators were rejoicing at the exhibition.
“This is not true as it was during a school day and educators were in their classrooms teaching.”