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ANC sues over Zuma painting

South Africa’s ruling ANC is going to court this week in an attempt to have a satirical painting of President Jacob Zuma removed from a Johannesburg gallery. "The Spear" by artist Brett Murray, shown above, is a Soviet-style image of the president with his genitals exposed — perhaps a reference to past rape allegations against ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages
ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages

South Africa's ruling ANC is going to court this week in an attempt to have a satirical painting of President Jacob Zuma removed from a Johannesburg gallery. "The Spear" by artist Brett Murray, shown above, is a Soviet-style image of the president with his genitals exposed -- perhaps a reference to past rape allegations against Zuma. This isn't the first time Zuma has gone to court over similar works of art. In 2008, a defamation suit was filed against the Sunday Times newspaper for running a cartoon in which Zuma was shown about to rape "lady liberty."

The ANC has suggested that the painting by Murray, who is white, is not only an "abuse of freedom of artistic expression" and an "attack on the dignity and institutional office of the President of the Republic, " but blatantly racist:

"It's rude, it's crude, it's disrespectful, it's racist," said African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe at a post NEC briefing in Johannesburg on Monday. He said if it had been a white man depicted, the reaction would have been very different. As far as many people were concerned, black people were just objects, he continued.

South Africa’s ruling ANC is going to court this week in an attempt to have a satirical painting of President Jacob Zuma removed from a Johannesburg gallery. "The Spear" by artist Brett Murray, shown above, is a Soviet-style image of the president with his genitals exposed — perhaps a reference to past rape allegations against Zuma. This isn’t the first time Zuma has gone to court over similar works of art. In 2008, a defamation suit was filed against the Sunday Times newspaper for running a cartoon in which Zuma was shown about to rape "lady liberty."

The ANC has suggested that the painting by Murray, who is white, is not only an "abuse of freedom of artistic expression" and an "attack on the dignity and institutional office of the President of the Republic, " but blatantly racist:

"It’s rude, it’s crude, it’s disrespectful, it’s racist," said African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe at a post NEC briefing in Johannesburg on Monday. He said if it had been a white man depicted, the reaction would have been very different. As far as many people were concerned, black people were just objects, he continued.

"I said how about the idea of going to court tomorrow and as we sit there we can take off our trousers… we can walk around with our genitals hanging out… it’s crude," he said.

Zuma isn’t the only world leader to get this treatment, though. In 2009, an Irish artist caused a stir by hanging a nude painting of then Prime Minister Brian Cowan in several Dublin galleries in a Banksy-style guerilla art stunt. Murray’s painting might be a little crude, as far as satire goes, but with their lawsuit, the ANC is basically assuring that it gets international coverage as opposed to causing a minor stir in the Johannesburg art world.

The $14,000 painting has apparently already been sold, which raises the additional question of who, exactly, would want this in their living room.  

Update: Looks like someone vandalized the painting

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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