“I’ve received a few death threats from some ‘big men’ who are hiding in that black, green, and gold institution,” he said yesterday. “I couldn’t give a f*** about them.”
The death threats were spurred by his latest painting The Economy of Rape which depicts President Jacob Zuma performing a sexual act on late former president Nelson Mandela.
The ANC has lashed out at Mabulu, labelling the artwork as “grotesque, inflammatory and of bad taste”, and numerous other South Africans have taken to social media, slamming the painting as crude and offensive.
But Mabulu maintained that he was merely expressing his views on the current situation in the country.
His painting is interpreted as Zuma “raping” Mandela’s legacy. “I didn’t create the painting so people can agree with me,” said Mabulu.
“It’s not their idea. I did the painting because I wanted to comment on an issue that is happening.
“The painting is about the continuous bulls**t, ill treatment, and disrespect that continues to happen to the people of this country.”
Mabulu defended his portrayal of Mandela. “Who the f***is he? Is he special or some form of a demigod or something? No, he’s not.
“And besides, Mandela was the type of person who would have been open to criticism.
“In the painting, Mandela is a victim and is being raped. This mother-f*****g president of ours right now is an oppressor so can we focus on him.
“This issue needs to be addressed otherwise why do we create any art at all?”
The 36-year-old is no stranger to controversy. He courted trouble last year when he painted Zuma performing a sexual act with controversial businessman Atul Gupta in a cockpit of a plane.
Another of his paintings, Spear Down My Throat (The Pornography of Power) in 2015 depicted Zuma with his penis in the throat of a woman (representing South Africa) while she was being penetrated by a hyena in a Victorian suit.
The Joburg artist hit out at critics who labelled him as an “attention seeker”. “Why is it that when you are a black artist and you have an opinion, you become an attention seeker?” asked Mabulu. “There is no way that I will ever keep quiet. I can’t sit there an be comfortable knowing what this f*****g government is doing to this country.”
His hatred towards Zuma was personal. “I’m not going to try to be nice to him because he’s occupying a certain office in the land.”
Mabulu said he was trying to achieve “a high level of consciousness, freedom of the mind and of the soul so that I can be able to continue to live freely. I want to liberate the minds of my people, to remind my people of where they belong, and that they belong in a better place than this place.
“It’s about dismantling the political institutions and reminding whoever the f*** is taking the reins next that if you deal with us in the wrong way we going to f*** with you and pull you out of that office”
The ANC said the painting was in poor taste. “No matter what message he may want to send to Zuma and the ANC, we view his work as crossing the bounds of rationality to degradation, exploiting the craft of creative art for nefarious ends.
“More concerning is his callous abuse of our icon, the late founding president of democratic South Africa.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation said it found Mabulu’s painting “distasteful”. “The foundation would like to express that it respects Mr Mabulu’s right to freedom of expression. We, however, find this painting distasteful.”