Ayanda Mabulu’s artwork equates Nelson Mandela with genocidal German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Ayanda Mabulu’s artwork equates Nelson Mandela with genocidal German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Ayanda Mabulu
Ayanda Mabulu
Cape Town - While every South African is entitled to freedom of expression, it is not an absolute right as there are limits, according to the Freedom of Expression Institute.

The statement refers to infamous artist Ayanda Mabulu’s latest work - a smiling Nelson Mandela superimposed on a Nazi flag, hand raised in a Nazi salute with the caption “Unmasked Piece of S**t”.

Mabulu displayed the artwork at the FNB Joburg Art Fair earlier this week, causing a stir at the event and on social media.

It was subsequently removed after being deemed “too offensive”.

Many have found the caricature of Mandela to paint the global icon in an unfavourable and controversial light.

Known for his shocking and graphic imagery, such as his painting of former president Jacob Zuma’s with exposed genitalia and another depicting Zuma performing a lewd sex act on Atul Gupta, the satirical artist is unapologetic about his artworks.

In response to his most recent artwork, the Nelson Mandela Foundation this week released a statement calling it “deeply offensive”.

“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 foundation said.

“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 commend the management for their quick action in difficult circumstances.”

The foundation added that stakeholders were being engaged to consider options in terms of taking further action against Mabulu.

The painting has further raised the debate on artistic creativity within the constitutional framework of the freedom of expression clause.

Nompumelelo Kekana of the Freedom of Expression Institute said: “Artistic creativity is expressly protected under section 16 (1) of our constitution. With regards to Mabulu’s latest art, we maintain that art is always subject to interpretation. Art would not be art if it were scared to provoke or even offend.”

She added that art is meant to make people uncomfortable, but the way artists push boundaries also needed to be examined within various contexts - including whether or not it constitutes as hate speech or defamation.

However, Mabulu remains unapologetic about his portrayal of a figure as globally adored as Mandela.

In an interview with the BBC this week, he defended his work, saying he was speaking on behalf of poor black South Africans.

“Mandela failed to deliver the dream and that makes him an equivalent of (Adolf) Hitler,” Mabulu said.

The painting has provoked heated discussion on Twitter, with many users calling the work “disrespectful”, “vulgar” and “meaningless”.

Following the removal of the artwork this week, Mabulu appeared as a guest on talk show host Eusebius McKaiser’s show on 702 Talk Radio, during which he said Madiba “might be dining with Satan wherever he is because the legacy he left us with is highly evil”.

He also accused Mandela and his “cronies within the ANC” of failing the South African people.

Weekend Argus