“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” says a popular old aphorism. It was nevertheless, never mentioned that the uneasiness will manifest in such nature the throne will be ridiculed with naked satirical paintings, exposing to whoever cares to take a look the private body parts of the king, thanks to democracy, to freedom, and that of expression. All we’ve got to do when the leaders are leading everyone astray and aren’t listening to calls for redirection is to paint their genitalia.
Crazy huh? Well South African artists have done such paintings, it got all the attention albeit failed to change a thing in terms of the affairs of the country.
It started with the Brett Murray’s “The Spare” painting below which depicted the president in a pose stirring-up the memory of the Russian communist revolutionary-politician, Vladimir Lenin with exposed genitals.
The painting as displayed at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg angered the ANC who considered that the painting was the peak of disrespect to their leader and to the party at large. In a media statement, the ANC stated that “the dignity of our President as both President of the ANC, President of the Republic and as a human being has been dented by this so-called piece of art by Brett Murray at Goodman Gallery…” Hence, a defamatory lawsuit was filed by the African National Congress party, and the painting was subsequently vandalized on 22 May 2012 when Barend la Grange and Lowie Mabokela visited the gallery and defaced the painting by painting a red cross over the depiction of Zuma’s face, genitals, and then smeared black paint over the canvas.
While the painting stirred unrest and hatred across the country, Brett Murray explained that the symbolism of his painting is completely lost, and the meaning misplaced. To him, the depiction of the President’s genitals was “a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy.” With that, it’s necessary to question if there were no other “decent” ways for the artist to share his thoughts.
As though the controversy and division Murray’s painting generated didn’t cause enough harm, a cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro who has often depicted Zuma in such manners that are unpleasing in his cartoons, came up with his own version of “The Spare”, replacing the private part with a shower-head.
While it’s apparent that Shapiro’s version is commending Murray’s painting, it ridiculed the President’s comment at his 2006 rape trial where he commented that having a shower after sex would reduce the risk of being infected with HIV.
That’s not all. Recently, another cartoonist Anton Kannemeyer recalled the 2012 controversy and protest relating to “The Spear” painting. He recalled that it was demanded then, that the president should be treated with dignity and respect. Consequently, Anton concluded that “R is for respect, respect for the president’s penis, and it must be drawn.”
Whatever it was Anton wanted to convey via his drawing, again begs the question: Is there no other way for the artist to illustrate his thoughts rather than drawing this giant black penis assumed to be that of Mr President?
And just when we thought we’ve seen the end of it, the President was again painted by Ayanda Mabulu depicting his genitals to portray the artist’s convictions of the situation of things in South Africa. According to Mabulu, “the country is being turned into a slut, and this young democracy of ours is being molested in many ways and raped continuously. I feel like our leaders have been turned into a lynch clan. We have been robbed of what’s rightfully ours. As such, the work he titled “The Pornography Of Power” as shown below, is Mabulu’s expression of how he “feels about the political situation in the country.”
The woman is said to represent South Africa and all that she has to endure under the leadership of the country.
While the above painting has been described as retarded, outrageous and unnecessary, many have praised it. And amidst the artist’s claim of being molested over this painting and a whole other issues arising, all the paintings and cartoon so far listed here, took delight in showcasing explicit private body part contents referring to the leader of the country while they condemned the way the affairs of the state is being manged safe for the “Black Christ” painting below.
The painting above was painted back in 1962 by Ronald Harrison to capture the injustice of apartheid. He captured Albert Luthuli, the ANC leader then as Jesus crucified on a cross, depicted Hendrick Verwoed (the brain behind apartheid) and John Vorster (former Minister of Justice) as the Roman Soldiers. Just as the big deal in recent paintings are the depiction of Zuma’s genital, the idea of a black Jesus was unpleasing to majority of the White community back then.