Advertisements

24. The Spear. | 23thorns

May 22, 2013

24. The Spear.

Art isn’t really a big deal round here. Sure, the big cities have a gallery or two, and like every country we do have a community of both artists and art lovers, but the vast majority of us, even those who are better educated and better off, are about as likely to pop into a gallery over the weekend as we are to attempt the world naked backward-running record. We don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with it, it just doesn’t occur to us. Except for last year. Last year, we all became rabid art critics for a month or two.

The whole of South Africa, May, 2012

The whole of South Africa, May, 2012

There is an artist out here called Brett Murray. I had never heard of him before, but apparently he had had some success, both here and overseas. He had an exhibition, coincidentally round the corner from where I worked, called “Hail to the Thief”. As I have said before, I’m no art critic, but I didn’t think it was particularly good. It was basically just a series of visual jokes and digs at our ruling party.

There were ANC badges with “For Sale” Stickers attached. There were posters echoing South Africa’s struggle for liberation, but instead of demands for freedom and equality, there were demands for Chivas Regal, BMW’s, and bribes. Like I say, I wasn’t blown away. It was all too obvious. There was no subtlety to it. But up against one wall, in boldly contrasting black and red, there was a bombshell. It was called “The  Spear”. It will seem familiar to you, because you’ve seen this;

1251033756lenin_lives

There he is. Lenin. The man of the people. The great leader, thrusting himself boldly into the future. He is imposing. Defiant. Heroic. Even godlike.

Here was our version;

The_Spear_-_a_portrait_of_Jacob_Zuma,_by_Brett_Murrayv

There he is. Zuma. The man of the people. The great leader, thrusting himself boldly into the future. He is imposing. Defiant. Heroic. Even godlike. And he has his dong out.

This should come as no surprise. The man is in danger of becoming a parody of himself. Despite being rather busy as the president, Zuma has a quite staggering after-hours programme. His sex-life would exhaust the average twenty-year-old. Zuma is seventy.

He has, as we speak, four wives. One would think that that would, at his age, seem like rather too much nocturnal company. It isn’t enough. He’s engaged to be married again. That isn’t enough either, it would seem. You see, our President has fourteen children by his wives. But he has over twenty two children. They keep popping out of the woodwork.

When he was charged with rape, the original judge had to recuse himself because it turned out Zuma had fathered a child by his sister. He had another two children with a businesswoman in Pietermaritzburg. And another three with a woman in Jo’burg. And another one with a woman in Richards Bay. And he’s just had another with the daughter of a famous football manager. At some point, people were going to start pointing and laughing. And point and laugh we did.

Come inside, kids! It's time for supper.

Come inside, kids! It’s time for supper.

That’s all this picture is. It’s a not particularly clever visual joke. He can’t seem to keep it in his pants.

But then something odd happened. The picture found its way out of the rarefied halls of the gallery and into the public domain. The response was fascinating.

South Africa has eleven official languages. There are black people, white people, Indian people, coloured people (that’s what mixed race people call themselves round here). We all think we know each other; that we get along. And for the most part we do. But every now and then, something happens that reminds us that we don’t really know each other at all. This picture was one of them.

Because the response was rage. We have grown accustomed to the ANC’s almost comically hyperbolic  responses to minor slights and offences. But this was different. Something bigger lay underneath this. And at first, we didn’t see it.

The arty types began to make a bit of noise about the integrity of the message and the value of art as a form of protest. The rest of the educated classes mumbled that if he didn’t want people seeing his dick, he shouldn’t be showing it to quite so many people. And the masses were incandescent. This was no theatrical posturing by Zuma’s party. I spoke to quite a few people about this. Working class black people. They were genuinely angry. They were hurt. They began to mutter about racism. South Africa’s tired and battered old beast raised its ugly, battle-scarred head. It was about race . Again.

It was, they told me, about respect. And I think, in retrospect, it was. And it wasn’t about respect for Zuma the man. It was about a deeply ingrained tenet of African culture. You respect your elders. Always. Because they are your elders. You respect your leaders. Always. Because they are your leaders. You do not, no matter what they have done, draw pictures of them with their dongs hanging out.

Wisdom comes with age like assault comes with battery

Wisdom comes with age like assault comes with battery

It’s easy to forget that this is not an African thing. It’s universal. The words wise and old still fit comfortably together. Honour thy father and thy mother. There are those of us who have been freed, by education and comfort, to think more critically, to decide for ourselves who to respect or not. To feel that respect should be earned. But that is a new and radical idea. And most of the world doesn’t think like that.

And so we all stood at the brink of something nasty. Protests were organised. Threats were made. Threats of legal action. Threats of violence. The Film and Publications Board gave the picture an age restriction. The newspaper that printed the picture was threatened with a boycott. And then something wonderful happened. Something that could only happen here.

A young black man went into the gallery where the picture hung. He must have been nervous. He was a simple man, a taxi driver, not the sort who would have been into a gallery before. And he had a secret. He had a pot of black paint. He was going to sort it all out. He was going to destroy the cause of all this drama. He came to the offending picture and stood before it. His heart must have been in his mouth, his hands sweating. He had never done anything like this before. His hand gripped the pot under his coat and he began a tentative step forward. And then a fifty-year-old white man in a tweed coat stepped out of the crowd next to him and spray-painted a cross over the offending dong.

What's gonna work? Teamwork.

What’s gonna work? Teamwork.

It wasn’t a team effort. The two had never met. I have always wondered what the taxi driver must have thought. I suspect it was  something like “Screw you! I wanted to do that!” But he was not put off for long. He hauled out his pot and got to work. And there they stood for one perfect moment, together, slaying the beast. And then the police took them away. But only after they had made us South Africa again.

When we woke up the next day, it was all over. The people who do that sort of thing for a living or a hobby kept up their posturing and postulating. Open letters were written. Interviews about artistic freedom and social commentary were conducted. There were denials, recriminations, criticisms. Some enterprising soul even found a Zuma dong painting done by a black person, to show that it wasn’t a race thing after all. Just a dong thing. But ugly edge was gone, and the rest of just heaved a sigh of relief and went on with our lives.

Viva South Africa, home of non-racist, non-sexist Zuma dong paintings. Viva!

Viva South Africa, home of non-racist, non-sexist Zuma dong paintings. Viva!

I don’t think we even learned anything. We still happily laugh at the President’s dong and what he does with it. We still misunderstand each other sometimes. And the beast has not been slain. There are too many issues here that we have never really dealt with. But we kept it at bay for another day, and that has to be a good thing.

And maybe next time it comes roaring towards us we’ll take a deep breath and give each other a nod and a wink before we rush into the fray, and remember that we don’t need to know each other. We don’t need to understand each other. We just need to remember that the good things happen when, for just a second, we stand together to beat it back. Before the police take us away.

Together we can make something beautiful.

Together we can make something beautiful.

via 24. The Spear. | 23thorns.

Advertisements

One response

  1. I know I’m a bit late, but great article.

    Like

So What Do You Think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

annotated audrey art

TUCSON ARTIST AND ILLUSTRATOR

Iridescentfox

There are no foxes here

Tamara Philip, Author

Where Love blossoms...

Nostalgia Pie

Comfort food for the soul from a time when things were so much simpler...

Adventures of an author's wife

Editor and publicist for my author wife Michelle McMurrie. Michelle is transgender and wrote her current books under her previous name of Michael Pugh.

Chris Brake Show Podcast

LIVE! Every Wednesday @ 8pm Eastern / 7pm Central on StrangeLabel.com

Mindy Ogg

Resistance is not futile.

WorldofHarley

Fun for the whole asylum!

Big Red Carpet Nursing

Fun & Progress!

Globe Drifting

Global issues, travel, photography & fashion. Drifting across the globe; the world is my oyster, my oyster through a lens.

lorellepage

Reader-to-Writer

The Honking Goose

something to honk about

Blinginitwholesale produces wholesale rhinestone apparel and hot fix crystals

Customized bling shirts and rhinestone heat transfers

tylersculinary

Tylers culinary blog

The Chalk Outline

the blog home of mystery writer Jeff Markowitz

KURT★BRINDLEY

WRITER★EDITER★PRODUCER★CONSULTANT

Mik Mob's Music Mass

share YOUR favourite tunes with The Mob

Riley Amos Westbook

A fantasy Author with too much free time on his hands that likes to Support Indie Authors.

terry73's Blog

A fine WordPress.com site

To Boldly Go

My mission to seek the Lord and to boldly go where He leads me

pgcps mess - Reform Sasscer without delay.

Fight corruption in PGCPS. Innovate, Change and Transform - Create Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

12 Week Weight Loss Course

Losing Weight & Looking Great!

On The Heath

where would-be writer works with words

Amanda Dyer

Founder & Creative Director at Maison by Amanda Dyer & Editor-in-Chief, Living 360 Magazine & Mompreneur 360 Magazine

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

Journal Edge

An online blog with highly informative, cheerful and inspirational articles for people who love travel to India with passion and make a different Lifestyle. Vikas Acharya is the founder and managing editor at Journal Edge Online Blog. Contact me to find out how I can help you create high-quality blog content, lead magnets, ebooks, and web copy for your business.

Art Attack

Discovering art in everything

What's Good?

Around the globe..

The Digital Inkwell

If poetry be the food for love, pen on.

Harga Timbangan

Dunia Timbangan,081280780615,081291999252,0216016259,Harga Timbangan,Harga Timbangan Duduk,Harga Timbangan Digital,Harga Timbangan Analitik,Harga Timbangan Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung,Harga Timbangan Duduk Digital,Harga Timbangan Duduk Manual,Harga Timbangan Lantai,Harga Timbangan Mekanik,Harga Timbangan Gantung Manual,Harga Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Harga Timbangan Buah Digital,Harga Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Harga Timbangan Elektrik,Harga Timbangan Digital Gram,Harga Timbangan Gram,Timbangan Duduk,Timbnagan Manual,Timbangan Duduk Manual,Timbangan Analitik,Timbangan Laundry,Timbangan Mekanik,Timbangan Salter,Timbangan Nagata,Timbangan Cahaya Adil,Timbangan Quattro,Timbangan Sapi,Timbangan Ternak,Timbangan Adam,Analitycal Balnce,Moisture Balance,Timbangan Sn Timah,Timbangan Oc Timah,Timbangan Chq,Timbangan Matrix,Timbangan Acis,Timbangan Lantai,Timbangan Gantung,Timbangan Gantung Jarum,Timbangan Gantung Manual,Jual Timbangan,Timbangan Barang Digital,Timbangan Pemancingan,Timbangan Galatama,Timbangan Obat,Timbangan Neraca Analitik,Timbangan Lantai Digital,Timbangan Camry,Harga Timbangan Laundry,Harga Timbangan Beras,Harga Bandul Timbangan,Anak Timbangan,Batu Timbangan,Timbangan Daging,Timbangan Buah,Timbangan Sayur,Timbangan Barang,Timbangan Balance,Timbangan Floor Scale,Timbangan Counting,Timbangan Anti Air,Timbangan Water Proof,Timbangan Jarum,Timbangan Duduk Jarum

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

Setsu Uzume

Speculative Fiction

d|gI+Al hEGeM0n ...d|g|Z|nE

Works of Thought... And Pictures of My Soul

Jobsdhamaka Blog

Job Interview Tips and Career Advices

LOVE AND OLIVES

Just a regular thirty-something-year-old trying to capture the essence of life in writing. Join me as I journey through the ups, the downs and the adventures in between.

Predictable in Her Unpredictability

Doing What Makes My Soul Shine

Boost Facebook Likes

Fast, Cheap Followers and Likes

Anti-Hero

A man who will break rules and play dirty, only bound by his own code of survival.

sheila sea

like thalassic velvet

canadatothabay

canadatothabay

Spirylis

To awaken the unique and infinite consciousness, the essence of all things in Creation, and the essence within us all.