Presidency penis goes into hiding
As threats against the Goodman Gallery increased yesterday, the controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed was relocated to an unknown safe location.
The Spear, by Cape Town artist Brett Murray, was moved after two men defaced it with red and black paint earlier. A third person's attempt to graffiti the word "respect" on the gallery's wall was derailed.
The three suspects, who were arrested, were released late last night on police bail of R1000 each. They will appear in court today on charges of malicious damage to property.
The owner of the Goodman Gallery, Liza Essers, said: "The extent of the rage has astonished me and upset me very much. I furthermore never imagined that this debate would transform into harmful physical action.''
The Young Communist League, which is planning a march to the gallery tomorrow, said the men who defaced the painting should be given awards for their bravery.
Cosatu, which has been vocal in the controversy, said it sympathised with the men and understood their anger.
The gallery closed temporarily yesterday afternoon amid fears for the safety of staff and visitors - just hours before the Film and Publication Board convened last night to decide whether to classify The Spear as pornography.
Earlier yesterday, the Johannesburg High Court ruled that a full bench of judges would hear the application brought by Zuma, his children and the ANC to have the painting permanently removed from the public domain.
The Film and Publication Board convened hastily last night after receiving complaints that the artwork was "sexually explicit" and widely circulated on social networks to which children have access.
One of the complainants, Zipho Mavimbela, said the painting was "extremely inappropriate" as it exposed her children, aged 14 and eight, to material of a sexual nature. Mavimbela said the painting was circulating on social networks, including Facebook and BlackBerry's instant messaging - to which her children have access - and that it was completely inappropriate.
"As parents we must respond [when] our children [ask] why the president of the country's private parts are exposed," she said.
Another complainant, Andrew Dikobo, said the painting was pornography legitimised under the guise of freedom of expression, and that it "conveniently suits certain political agendas".
During a dramatic sitting last night, the board's CEO, Yoliswa Makhasi, had to recuse herself following objections to comments she had made on Twitter about the saga, prompting accusations that she was biased.
Makhasi had earlier tweeted: ''The Spear is taking a new turn; FPB getting lots of letters from lawyers representing some newspapers gagging it from publishing the classification decision. It's interesting how media is sensitive to being gagged and yet so quick to want to gag others.''
A non-joinder application by City Press newspaper, which first published an image of the portrait on its web site, was rejected by the board. The paper's lawyers had argued that many other news sites had subsequently published images of the portrait.
Because of concerns that continued distribution of the image might cause further harm to children, the board also rejected City Press's argument that the hearing be put on ice until after tomorrow's High Court application.
Instead, the hearing of the board's classification committee will take place at 2pm today. The board will this morning rule on whether The Times and other media will be allowed to cover proceedings.
If The Spear is classified as pornography by the board, it will be allowed to be exhibited only in adult shops. The artwork and photographs of it would have to be removed from the Goodman Gallery and the City Press website.
While the complaints to the board centred on pornographic explicitness, Zuma said in his court affidavit that The Spear not only offended him but it violated his dignity.
In its affidavit, City Press - which has refused to remove a picture of the painting from its website - said Zuma's attempt to remove the artwork was "unprecedented and extraordinary".
Never has any court banned "artistic work in all its forms in perpetuity", the paper submitted, adding that Zuma was not a juristic person who has an intrinsic right to dignity.
In his affidavit, Zuma mentioned the hurt and offence he had felt when he had first seen the painting, saying he was "shocked, and felt personally offended and violated" .
"It is clear from the allegations set out in this paragraph that the antipathy by some people towards me, such as the [City Press], has driven them to the belief that I am not worthy of any respect and that I should, therefore, be stripped of all dignity," his affidavit said.
Zuma said, however, that not all of Murray's art was objectionable.
"I agree that he has produced commendable works in challenging the status quo during apartheid and further that he must continue to offer critical commentary through his work in the era of constitutional democracy.
"My contention is that artists and social commentators must draw the line between fair and justifiable comment and offensive commentary that infringes a person's inherent right to dignity," he said.
Murray refused to comment yesterday, but his lawyer, Pamela Stein, said: "At this point Brett Murray is feeling completely overwhelmed."
Zuma's application will be heard tomorrow at 10am.
ANC supporters came out in numbers yesterday in a show of force against Murray's painting, with ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu saying the depiction of the president was an insult not only to Zuma personally but to all South Africans and the people of Africa.
He said the ANC had been inundated with calls from dignitaries from Africa and abroad about the "vulgar painting".
The ANC was not opposed to freedom of expression but, Mthembu said, a critical issue the court would have to deal with was: "Is our democracy denigrating the culture of the people of this country; should it denigrate the rights that are contained in our constitution?
"We have fought for freedom of expression, we fought for freedom of human dignity. The question is: do we elevate the right of expression to that of human dignity?"
Mthembu said the ANC "respected" Murray's rights, but questioned what he was thinking when he created such an insulting and vulgar image. "Did he think people might not react in a particular way?" Mthembu said the ANC's application would go a long way in protecting the dignity of ordinary citizens from artistic ridicule.
Said Essers: "The gallery recognises how incredibly divided the country has become about the issues this controversy has raised. We must take cognisance of all responses to our exhibitions, and do not value one opinion above another." - Additional reporting by Andile Ndlovu, Amukelani Chauke and Poppy Louw
CONTROVERSIAL PAINTINGS SELL LIKE HOT CAKES
PAUL Warner, an advertising strategist, bought four of Brett Murray's works from his Hail the Thief II collection yesterday, saying the series would one day be priceless.
He would not disclose how much he paid for the paintings but said they were worth "every single cent".
Warner bought Murray's President and Sons and Amandla - each priced at R10 830.
Warner, who was present when two men defaced the controversial The Spear painting of President Jacob Zuma with exposed genitals - believes public outrage was exaggerated and "thrown out of context".
"It [the painting] sends out quite a statement of where our country is right now.
"If you look at all the paintings, [they are [a very honest depiction of what is happening in our country right now.
"It is a bit unfair to concentrate on the one painting."
Describing the sale of The Spear to a German as a "pity", Warner said the painting was now a "piece of history". - Chandré Prince