Artist Brett Murray's The Spear has offended the ANC. Image: Courtesy of the Artist and the Goodman Gallery

 The Film and Publication Board (FPB) will decide by Friday whether to classify Brett Murray's contentious painting “The Spear”, which depicts President Jacob Zuma with exposed genitals.

The FPB's classifications committee would consider all the input given at a hearing in Centurion, spokesman Mlimandlela Ndamase said on Tuesday.

“This committee will make the decision whether to classify or not. It will make a decision as to what classifications and restrictions will be applicable if the members decide to classify,” he said.

Ndamase said the FPB's interest was the portrait, not the person it depicted.

“The complaints we received relate to 'The Spear' as an artwork. The complaints are not about an individual depicted in the image,” he said.

Earlier, FPB chief operations officer Mmapula Fisha said it would inform stakeholders of its decision in writing by Friday.

She said the FPB did not have the legal jurisdiction to classify any content published or broadcast by media outlets.

However, she said this did not mean it would “fold hands over the issue”.

City Press published a photograph of the painting on its website. It removed the image on Monday, following an outcry and calls for a boycott.

Fisha said the FPB had sound working relations with the Press Ombudsman and would forward to him the complaints about City Press “for the sake of the complainants”.

“We have always known that we don't have the authority over newspapers, but we don't fold our hands. We have to protect (the) children of this country,” said Fisha.

Advocate Matthew Welz - for the Goodman Gallery, in Johannesburg, where the painting was shown - dismissed complaints that the genitals depicted in the portrait would harm children who visited the gallery for inspiration.

He said the children who toured the gallery were often in the company of their parents, and that the gallery's staff was always at hand to inform and educate the visitors of the greater symbolism behind an art work.

“Kids who visit galleries do so with their parents. You do not want to create a nanny state with kids running around the gallery,” he said.

He said the Goodman Gallery had a proud history of displaying protest art and the Murray portrait fitted this class.

The portrait was not rude nudity, but a strong political statement to those in power, said Welz. He rubbished submissions by the complainants that the image was “porn”.

Confronted about the South African history and context, Welz said it was not the mandate of the FPB to determine whether the portrait was appropriate for the country.

“You do not have a moral right to decide that this is what is good for the country. Is the penis excessive? That is the question here,” Welz told FPB members.

He said the board could decide whether there was “undue” display of genitalia on the portrait.

Welz told the FPB there was no chance of the image being repaired after it was vandalised in the gallery.

“In its vandalised form, the image is being taken to Germany where it will be retained by the buyer. It will not be duplicated,” he said. - Sapa