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Blog: The Zuma hearing continues

23/05/2012
Zuma Spear protestor by S:P:S
Zuma Spear protestor, a photo by S:P:S on Flickr.

I attended the opening night of Brett Murray’s exhibition and I remember the piece in question as being only one of many considered to be subversive, suggestive and possibly offensive to art viewers. The piece is not a stand-alone piece in the sense that the whole exhibition is of a similar tone, clearly taking a jibe at the ruling party, the African National Conference.

Upon first seeing the prominently controversial work, The Spear, I was not offended. The artist clearly is not impressed with the current state of South African politics and has chosen to present his feelings in a strong way. That is fair enough. But this particular phallic image of JZ has caused a particular uproar.

Admittedly, I have only just got it. I don’t get the racial tension around it, but I do appreciate the cultural differences that have been stirred up around it, without ignoring the historical context in this country around the sensitivities depicting a black man naked. But let’s come back to that when the Film and Publications board finishes their review, the current High Court proceedings are concluded and certain ANC actions against the Goodman Gallery are somewhat exhausted.

Back to the gallery and their right to display, it is presented in an art gallery, not broadcast. An art gallery has strong rights to present their chosen artworks. Yes, it is on their website, but that is almost a side issue, it is everywhere now, which makes its presence on the gallery website almost irrelevant and becomes one merely of principle. That said, I think the ANC messed up their own argument when they stepped over The Spear to also complain about the exhibition being an attack on the ANC. Cultural sensitivities probably have a realm of debate, but criticism of a political party, I don’t think so.

Not being offended is hardly a right protected by the constitution.

Distasteful? Sure, if you think so. Offended? If you are, the feeling is valid. Something that needs to be put down by the power of the state? Hardly.

Personal emotions are not the realm of state control.

In the words of City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee, “I’m tired of the people who desire to kill ideas of which they do not approve”.

Anyway, the hearing continues.

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