If you are in South Africa and don’t reside under a rock, then you’ve likely heard about the controversy raging over an artist’s portrait of South African President Jacob Zuma, called “The Spear”. If you don’t live in South Africa, or do reside under a rock, you can read about the controversy here.
The ANC (South Africa’s ruling party) has expressed outrage over the portrait, by prominent artist Brett Murray, which portrays President Zuma with exposed…ahem…private parts. In an ANC press release distributed on Thursday, spokespeople called the portrait “vulgar and distasteful” and claimed that it violates the president’s constitutional rights. The ANC has demanded that the Goodman Gallery — the well-known Johannesburg art gallery where the portrait is displayed as part of a Murray exhibition called “Hail to the Thief II” — remove the picture, and has taken the Goodman Gallery to court over the matter. The gallery has vowed to keep the portrait up. (Obviously.)
I could expound at length on the many ridiculous, hilarious, outrageous, and even frightening aspects of this story. But I’m sure there are plenty of other South African bloggers out there doing that already. And let’s be honest, people. You probably couldn’t care less what I think, but I’ll bet you really want to see with your own eyes what all the brew-haha is about.
So. Are you ready?
WARNING! Presidential private parts exposed below.
I was compelled to go in for a close inspection.
Oh, and for those of you not from South Africa or living under a South African rock, it’s worth mentioning that 70-year-old Jacob Zuma currently has four wives (he’s been married six times total) and 20 children (at least). He married his latest wife a couple of weeks ago.
The entire exhibit, which I thought was fabulous, is dedicated to poking fun at the ANC. There are many other interesting works in addition to The Spear.
“Good Cop Bad Cop” and “You Can’t Polish a Turd”.
Zuma. He’s got balls.
I’ll offer just two pieces of commentary about the exhibition:
1) Thanks to the ANC’s poorly thought-out publicity campaign, the Murray exhibition is the hottest show in town. Everyone has heard about it and wants to check it out. The Goodman Gallery was packed today, filled with jovial people snapping frames on their camera phones. It’s great fun, so you should go if you can.
2) I think Murray’s depiction of Zuma is actually quite flattering. I mean really, the president should be proud.
Kudos to Brett Murray and the Goodman Gallery. You made my weekend.
The Goodman Gallery is at the intersection of Jan Smuts Avenue and Bolton Road in Parkwood. The exhibition is scheduled to run through June 16.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Update as of 22 May: All hell has broken loose in the furor over “The Spear”. This morning, two vandals walked into the Goodman Gallery and defaced the potrait with spray paint. You can watch the video footage on YouTube. And here’s a play-by-play analysis of what happened from the Daily Maverick.
What next? I have no words.