A well-known art gallery that exhibited a painting of President Jacob Zuma with his penis exposed has been accused of double standards by another artist because of its alleged refusal to exhibit another work of imagination that exposes the private parts of three DA leaders.
The artist, 38-year-old Iven Amali, alleges that the Goodman Gallery felt his “masterpiece” – depicting DA leaders’ nudity and suggesting that party leader Mmusi Maimane is a slave of whites – was too insulting.
However, the painting sparked praise in some circles on social media yesterday, while also generating shock and anger. Some have questioned whether it might be an election gimmick, this close to election day on August 3 next week.
In the political satirical work, Maimane is pictured as a slave pulling former party leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and the party’s federal chairperson, James Selfe, on a rickshaw. Maimane’s penis happens to be gigantic, while Selfe’s is tiny.
The comment is, rather obviously, that the older, white leaders, are hoping to be taken on an enjoyable ride by their black party leader. The fact that they’re naked is a clear form of payback at the numerous recent paintings depicting President Jacob Zuma nude.
Amali, from Malawi, says his wish was to have his painting displayed at the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank, Joburg, after all the furore surrounding The Spear painting by Brett Murray in 2012, but “a white lady jumped off and told me it was insulting”.
“She gave me her business card and said they do not display this type of work. As an artist, I felt bad.”
Amali thought they would be excited about the nude art after all the enthusiasm and defence of Murray, but he claims that “some white ladies came in and all turned red”.
Amali then contacted his clients and went through a bidding process. It was snapped up by controversial businessman Kenny Kunene “for R300 000”, he says.
Amali said he was upset that several galleries he went to had not been interested in displaying his work. The buyer, Kunene, who has since posted a picture of himself with it on Twitter, said: “I asked myself, should or shouldn’t I buy it, because some people are going to say some stuff. I saw art that has the potential to be sold at some point. But if somebody wants it, I will sell it and make a profit out of it.”
Kunene added: “I liked how he expressed what is happening in the DA from an artist’s perspective. I think he captured it very well. Selfe is Maimane’s immediate boss, and obviously Helen is their boss. The fact is, Helen retired as leader of the party, but she is still campaigning in areas where Maimane should be going to.
“It tells the truth. People – even Nelson Mandela – have said that whites are bosses and blacks are stooges in the DA. What a better way to say this than to depict Maimane as a slave?
“It is modern slavery. DA white masters think they can have this country back by having a black stooge like Maimane – sweating, doing the howling, shouting and the insulting, with the hope of getting as many black votes as possible,” said Kunene.
“It is an excellent work of art. I love it.”
Maimane’s spokesperson, Mabine Seabe, described the painting as “crude” and “offensive”.
“It belongs in a dustbin and not on display,” Seabe said.
Kunene said that when Amali told him the Goodman had declined his painting, despite having showcased the art of Murray, he was shocked.
“The question I am asking as a South African, is: Is it okay to have the president of this country being shown naked at white-owned galleries? But when it has white people it it, it is insulting?
“How racist can the Goodman Gallery be? I don’t think the woman had a problem with Maimane, but rather with James and Helen being naked.”
The gallery’s chief operating officer, Wendy McDonald, said their gallery “represents a stable of artists and has a curatorial programme determined two years in advance”.
“The curatorial team review new artists’ applications periodically, whereby we assess a full body of work, and would not make any decisions based on one particular work and visit, irrespective of quality and content,” said McDonald.
The meaning of the painting in Amali’s own words
“In the painting Maimane is sweating and his physique symbolises that of a slave who toils hard to bring SA back to the white DA leaders.
“Zille is revealed as having misled the world when she said she was stepping down as a political leader of the DA. But she was pretending, as she wasn’t stepping down. Her womanhood has been portrayed as that of a snake. Therefore, taking off the G-string is a metaphor to say she took off the leadership gown, but she remains active in power.
“Selfe is worried, asking himself if this slave you put in front bring will back this South Africa to us. That’s why he is sitting like that; he is impatient and thinks Maimane is not delivering enough.
“Although Selfe is shown as one with a small brain and physique, he calls the shots, meaning Maimane’s intelligence, and physique does not count.
“It is natural that slaves have big physiques and private parts, and it is common for whites to have small ones.
“Mmusi’s face is light in the painting and his body is dark. He thinks he is white, but unfortunately he is black.”