Johannesburg – The ANC has dismissed controversial Joburg-based artist Ayanda Mabulu’s latest works as “vulgar and disrespectful” and called on South Africans to condemn them.
Mabulu’s latest exhibition, on display at Constitution Hill, sparked a social media controversy on Tuesday night with respondents divided on whether it was art or not. The exhibition, Post It’s#1, opened last Thursday and runs until July 24.
Mabulu is one of 11 “born free” artists exhibiting their work on the theme of the country before and after democracy.
In one painting, Zuma is portrayed in the cockpit of an aeroplane with Atul Gupta against a backdrop of an ANC flag. The elder Gupta brother is naked and is bending over, with his buttocks in Zuma’s face, as Zuma sticks his tongue out.
In the second painting, Zuma is seen sleeping on a chair, a loin cloth over his waist with his genitals exposed.
On the floor lies a packet of McDonald’s chips, as well as a condom, a pair of panties, a stiletto and a copy of the constitution. There are two men on either side of Zuma, dressed as Spanish bullfighters, holding his hands as he sleeps.
Speaking to The Star on Wednesday morning, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa did not mince his words.
Read more: Outcry over Zuma-Gupta sex painting
“It is nothing but vulgarity, disrespect and the abuse of freedom of expression. The paintings undermine the right of media and press freedom and also go beyond what satire is about.
“All self-respecting South Africans, including the media, should condemn this. You don’t find a way of exercising your freedom of expression by undermining the dignity of another person,” he said.
Kodwa said party leaders were campaigning for the ANC for the municipal elections and did not have time to entertain the issue of the exhibition.
Four years ago, when artist Brett Murray painted Zuma as Lenin with his genitals exposed, the party launched a furious campaign, including marching to the Goodman art gallery where his work was being displayed.
Kodwa said if Mabulu’s intention was to detract from their election campaign by releasing those controversial paintings now, he could not be more wrong.
“If this was his way of detracting us from our campaign, it is not going to work. All media practitioners must condemn this, and organisations like the SA National Editors’ Forum must be the first to express their disgust,” he said.
This is not Mabulu’s first brush with controversy. An earlier painting titled Umshini Wam (my machine gun) showed Zuma in traditional attire with his private parts exposed. In another piece about the Marikana massacre, Mabulu showed Zuma’s dog attacking a miner with the president about to stand on the head of another miner as a concerned-looking Julius Malema looks on.
Another showed Zuma in what looks like a circus tent, holding a teddy behind his back. A woman, who has a saddle on her back, is bent over performing a sexual act on him while a man wearing old European-style clothes with the face of a hyena is having sex with her too.
Mabulu previously explained that the painting was about South Africa’s young democracy being raped by mining and commercial interests as politicians benefited.
The Star was unable to get current comment from Mabulu.