A DA councillor in eThekwini has lodged a complaint with the country’s religious and cultural watchdog body over satirical T-shirts made by two clothing designers, which mock Hindu deities.
But one of the artists has hit back, saying he would not bow to pressure and stop producing or selling his design.
Councillor Sharon Chetty wrote to the Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities on Wednesday, after the Sunday Times extra published an article titled “Battle of the tacky T-shirt designs” last month.
Chetty said the designers, Michan Marais and Harry Fokker, made a mockery of Hindu culture by designing T-shirts resembling Hindu gods Lord Shiva and Sri Maha Kali, the Goddess of Destruction.
She said the artists had designed and printed the “insulting and demoralising” T-shirts for commercial gain and called on the commission to investigate her complaint and take action.
“The right to protection from such attacks is enshrined in our constitution, and for this reason I have asked the commission to investigate,” she said.
According to The Sunday Times Extra, Marais’s design had won second place in the annual Makhulu Polane T-shirt competition. It features a khaki-clad man with a beard and eight arms, sitting cross-legged on a large plant. He holds a protea, beer bottle, slingshot, mealie, braai tongs, rugby ball and a springbok head in his eight hands.
The publication quoted Marais saying that: “The people in my (Afrikaans) community used to say Hindu art was scary… But I thought it was beautiful.”
Marais said his design incorporated the Hindu stylistic tradition while satirising the Afrikaner community.
Fokker said the idea to reference Kali originated from a play of words in which “Kali” became “Kalifornia”, and he commissioned Trevor Paul, of Firebrand Design, to illustrate his idea.
While he realised that people might be sensitive to his work, he would not allow that to influence his art direction.
Fokker’s design features a six-armed blue character carrying objects that reinforce this idea – a decapitated Mickey Mouse head, a smoking gun, a wad of dollar notes, a hamburger, a syringe and a US flag.
“T-Shirt Terrorist would not bow to pressure from the public to remove the design. The design represents a satirical take on the moral and ethical dissolution of popular American society and does not intend to mock and or demean the dignity of Hindus or the Hindu community,” he said.
I will continue to display the design online and will sell it to people who purchase it… I will take any action to ban my art very seriously,” he said.
Paul said he did not find the illustration on the T-shirt offensive or harmful because it portrayed a “mythical figure and a fictitious character in satire”.
“It’s merely a two-dimensional satirical illustration and is in no way inciting hate, intolerance or persecution of any political, cultural, racial or religious group,” he said.
SA Hindu Maha Sabha president Ashwin Trikamjee said the “obnoxious symbols” were unacceptable and the designs showed careless disregard for Hindu deities and other people’s religious beliefs.
Trikamjee said a complaint would also be lodged with the Human Rights Commission.