Controversial Painting of South African President Zuma Removed
The South African painting that divided a nation has been removed from its gallery.
President Jacob Zuma's genitals were the cause of the controversy, sparking vandalism, protests and a legal battle that was finally settled out of court.
The Brett Murray painting "The Spear" depicted the polygamist president's penis in a satirical nod to a Lenin propaganda poster (part of a larger exhibition "Hail to the Thief II," which comments on the ANC's corruption and failure to live up to expectations).
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The ANC was finally vindicated on Wednesday as the case was settled out of court and the painting has also been removed (and will soon be taken down from the gallery's website as well where it currently remains).
Sitting behind a banner marked "Promises, promises, promises," Goodman Gallery director Liza Essers and ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu spoke at a joint news conference Wednesday, highlighting the differences between the two sides of the issue in a society burdened with a history of apartheid and whose constitution prizes both artistic freedom and human dignity.
Los Angeles Times' "World Now" blog reports the following discussion between the two:
Essers stood by artistic freedom, saying the gallery would encourage artists to do controversial and courageous work. Mthembu said artists should think before acting and take care not to offend or insult.
Essers said the issue was not about race. Mthembu said the grief over the painting was felt by black South Africans, stripped naked by apartheid.
"By all means, do it in Europe," said Mthembu, of the depiction of genitals in a painting. "If you do it to me and my kids see this thing, my family and my people have been insulted by this thing."
"Not all black people feel that way," Essers interrupted him. "Nobody's view is more important than anybody else's."
"Many, many South Africans feel the way I feel," Mthembu insisted, "the majority of them."
The settlement was welcomed by many, including Anton Harber of the Freedom of Expression Institute.
"We are living in a society where issues of race and representation are very fragile," he said. "I think the good thing about this is it's thrown these very difficult issues into open and hopefully clarity will emerge from that. I think we want to have the discussion. We want to achieve a new consensus on what's acceptable and what's not, preferably one that's agreed, not imposed by a court."