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S.Africa’s ANC fumes over art ridiculing president
JOHANNESBURG (AP) - South Africa’s governing party said Thursday it will demand the removal of a painting from an exhibition by one of the nation’s best-known artists that ridicules the party and the president with graphic and provocative imagery.
Brett Murray’s sculptures and paintings, in an exhibition that opened at a major Johannesburg gallery last week titled “Hail to the Thief II,” are an “abuse of freedom of artistic expression,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement Thursday. He added ANC lawyers will go to court to force the Goodman Gallery to remove a painting of ANC leader President Jacob Zuma from the exhibition and from its website.
The gallery did not immediately respond to a call and an email requesting comment. Murray, known for provocative and political work, said through the gallery that he would have no comment.
The painting that most angered Mthembu is a black, red and yellow acrylic on canvas priced at 120,000 rand (about $15,000) called “The Spear.” In a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s brightly colored Marilyn Monroe portraits, it depicts Zuma in a suit and what could be a codpiece accentuating his genitals. Some observers say it depicts Zuma exposing his genitals.
Other work in the show recalls Soviet-era propaganda posters, and twists political slogans to acerbic effect. In an essay accompanying the exhibit, curators say the work forms “part of a vitriolic and succinct censure of bad governance and are (Murray‘s) attempts to humorously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite.”
A silkscreen in the show has the silhouette of a machine-gun toting guerrilla with Murray’s own version of the well-known last words of Solomon Mahlangu, an ANC militant who was hanged by the apartheid government in 1979:
“Tell my people that I love them and that they must continue the struggle for Chivas Regal … and kick-backs.”
Visitors can take away posters with the ANC spear-and-shield logo and two phrases: “For sale” and “Sold.”
In 2008, two years after Zuma was acquitted of rape charges, cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro depicted Zuma with his pants down, preparing to rape a blindfolded, female figure symbolizing justice. Shapiro, who signs his work Zapiro, was commenting at the time on allegations Zuma was trying to intimidate legal authorities.
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