I am sorry I just cannot believe the amount of drivel being spewed from the mouths of people on both sides of the President Jacob Zuma ‘The Spear’ controversy. ‘The Spear’ is a painting by Brett Murray, depicting our President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed and is currently on exhibit at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg. The 1.85m high painting, is part of Murray’s “Hail to the Thief II” exhibition.
The painting is based on a famous poster of Lenin as a hero of the revolution but Murray has ‘softened’ the depiction of Zuma somewhat showing him as a softer type revolutionary in glasses and removed the communist symbols – we could speculate ad nauseum as to why Murray has added a set of genitals – which I have censored in the image below using a Lunch Box with the cheeky “Human Organ for Transplant” byline.
In a highly scientific experiment I obscured the below the waist portions of Zuma and Lenin and asked the Apprentice Longhair, my 16 year old daughter; “If presented with the two images which of the two would you vote for as president of South Africa?” Her answer? The one on the right (Lenin). Reasons given included; “Strong, purposeful, competent, far looking, a man with a plan.” When pressed to give reasons why she would cast her vote for the man on the left (Zuma) she used words such as; “Intellectual, comfortable, trying, striving.”
One of the reasons why an artist paints is to simulate debate and reflect what he or she sees in the world. In this objective Murray has succeeded admirably by making people, on both sides of the for and against debate, feel real emotions. Just like a critic – the artists real purpose is to make the world a better place.
Questions that swirl in my mind include:
- Is naming the painting ‘The Spear’ a clever reference to President Jacob Zuma’s origins as a Zulu Warrior?
- Could the removal of the Hammer and Sickle be a reference to a decline in the once happy alliance between SACP and ANC?
- Is adding the glasses a cynical dig comparing our previous ‘intellectual’ president, Thabo Mbeki, with the populist President Jacob Zuma?
- Why would my daughter choose a communist over our own president?
- Was Brett Murray’s adding of the ‘Lunch Box’ / ‘Meat and Two Veg’ really necessary?
- How do we know that the ‘Lunch Box’ / ‘Meat and Two Veg’ really belongs to President Zuma?
- Is it a comment on the president’s rape case?
- Is it supporting polygamy?
- Is it for monogamy?
- How could it be construed as racist?
- If it is racist then is every porn movie also racist?
- Is it against women?
- Is it in support of female rape victims?
- Is it anti-men by depicting the country’s most visibly virulent male as a cartoon character?
What I do know is that the painting makes me feel very uncomfortable that we have a government and leaders that drive artists to depict them in such a manner. With a background of; white male 40 something who was subjected to hourly lectures on “die kommunistiese gevaar” I find it quite strange that I now find leanings towards the communistic political system surfacing in me.
Maybe the real debate should center around why and how we have got to this situation where respect for the country and the institution of the presidency has been lost and, more importantly, how we can fix it.
Of course my little mind says that President Zuma could have defused the situation somewhat by asking the artist to depict his genitals in their proper size and magnificence! Buying the image for private display or as fuel for a sacrifice at Nkandla could also have been a good idea.
Lets compare what Wikipedia says about Lenin and Zuma:
- Vladimir Lenin: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (22 April 1870 – 21 January 1924) was a Russian Marxist revolutionary, intellectual and politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years (1917–1924), as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a socialist economic system. As a politician, Lenin was a persuasive and charismatic orator. As an intellectual his extensive theoretic and philosophical developments of Marxism produced Marxism-Leninism, a pragmatic Russian application of Marxism that emphasized the critical role played by a committed and disciplined political vanguard in the revolutionary process, while defending the possibility of a socialist revolution in less advanced capitalist countries through an alliance of the proletarians with the rural peasantry.
- Jacob Zuma: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (born 12 April 1942) is the President of South Africa, elected by parliament following his party’s victory in the 2009 general election. Zuma was also a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), briefly serving on the party’s Politburo until he left the party in 1990. On 20 September 2008, Thabo Mbeki announced his resignation after being recalled by the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee, following a conclusion by Judge Nicholson of improper interference in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption. Zuma has faced significant legal challenges. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. In addition, he fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik’s conviction for corruption and fraud. On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop the charges, citing political interference.
Based on the above which man would YOU vote for?
The painting was vandalised by two men at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg on Tuesday. One suspect painted a red cross across Zuma’s face and genitals while the younger man smeared black paint over the artwork. Shortly afterwards they were apprehended by gallery security guards and taken to Rosebank police station.