Johannesburg - Ayanda Mabulu's depiction of former president Nelson Mandela doing a Nazi salute is deeply offensive and is the kind of art that goes beyond reasonable limit.

This was Nelson Mandela Foundation's reaction the controversial painter's latest work that was unveiled at the Joburg Art Fair which ran from September 7 to the 9th.

In the artwork, a smiling Mandela is superimposed on the Nazi flag and his hand is raised in a Nazi salute with the words "Unmasked Piece of Sh*t" written at the bottom and running across the picture.

The artwork that has deeply offended the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The Foundation said different artists have over many decades and across territories and jurisdictions depicted, represented and referenced Nelson Mandela in their work. However, there were limits, they said.

"The Nelson Mandela Foundation has no expertise in the arts and accepts that freedom of expression gives artists a creative licence which at times will result in work which is more or less disturbing, but there are limits.

"The work by Ayanda Mabulu which briefly was put on public display without due authorisation at the Joburg Art Fair in our view goes beyond reasonable limit. We find it deeply offensive.

"We commend the management for their quick action in difficult circumstances.

Together with our stakeholders, we are considering options in terms of further action. Last year we chose to seek an order from the Equality Court declaring gratuitous public displays of the old South African national flag to be a form of hate speech.  That litigation is ongoing. There are limits," the Foundation said.

Artist Ayanda Mabulu. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Mabulu is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his work. In 2016, his painting titled Prostitute depicted President Jacob Zuma in a sexual act with Atul Gupta.

The 35-year-old said at the time that he was aware that the painting had raised the ire of many South Africans but that he did not care.

In fact, he even vowed to beat anyone who might want to vandalise it, like Barend la Grange and Lowie Mabokela did in 2012 to Brett Murray’s Spear of the Nation painting which had depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed.

The Star tried to get hold of Mabulu to understand the inspiration behind his latest artwork but his phone was switched off and neither did he respond to the SMS sent to him.

The Star