Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile. Photo: Oupa Mokoena


The Goodman Gallery regrets hurt caused by the display of a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma with exposed genitals, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said on Monday.

“I had a meeting with the owner of the Goodman Gallery, Lisa Esser, who said she regrets the pain that the display of 'The Spear' had caused to Zuma, his family as well as to the nation,” Mashatile said.

“She had no intention of hurting or upsetting anyone, but understood that it did hurt people and our nation. The piece was removed from the gallery.”

The 1.85m-high painting “The Spear” is part of Brett Murray's “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition on show at the gallery, in Johannesburg.

Mashatile said he had not seen the painting himself, but had seen pictures of it in the media.

“It did look ugly in terms of coming across as de-humanising, but I will not censor anyone. The arts need to contribute to the process of nation-building and promoting social cohesion,” he said.

“I will be meeting with the arts fraternity of the country to discuss freedom of expression and how far we can go. We need the arts to build our nation and not to cause conflict.

“Going forward we need to do away with this misunderstanding,” Mashatile said.

On Monday morning, City Press editor Ferial Haffajee announced that said the painting would be removed from the newspaper's website.

“For any editor to respond to a threat to take down an article of journalism without putting up a fight is an unprincipled thing to do, so we've fought as much as we could,” she wrote.

“It doesn't serve City Press or South Africa to dig in our heels and put our fingers in our ears.”

On Sunday, Haffajee apologised if Zuma or his little children had been caused harm by seeing the work in the newspaper's pages. She acknowledged that the children may have faced teasing at school, and that playground teasing left deep scars.

On May 22, two people were arrested for allegedly defacing the painting, and a third for allegedly spraypainting part of the word “respect” on an outside wall of the gallery. - Sapa