Ayanda Mabulu’s pornographic satire paintings of President Jacob Zuma are many things, but being easy to ignore is not one of them.
Mabulu has been angry at the current government for a long time and he probably learnt, through a lifetime of artistic effort, that, although there are many ways to be noticed and to establish a name for yourself as an artist, the fastest and most immediate route is to cause shock.
At the rate he’s going, he will soon be a household name (although perhaps just a whispered one), just as Brett Murray attained far greater notoriety after he painted The Spear.
Maybe Mabulu is just chasing infamy and fame, but no one should be too quick to dismiss the fact that there is clearly opinion and commentary on the state of South Africa’s politics in Mabulu’s paintings. And he has a right to those opinions, whether one agrees with them or not.
If Mabulu had written an opinion piece saying “Zuma kisses the Guptas’ behinds” or “he’s more interested in having sex than protecting the constitution”, no one would have been able to sue him for those views. That he’s said something like that in visual form should still fall under the umbrella of free commentary.
This country’s commitment to freedom of speech and expression is under the microscope after the SABC chose to defy Icasa’s ruling against it that it must stop its censorship of the news. The ANC, too, has condemned the draconian editorial decisions by the broadcaster.
Now that the leader of the ANC has been badly lampooned in these new works of art, now would be a good time for the governing party to put its money where its mouth is – no matter where that mouth may have been.