South African president Jacob Zuma has been represented in yet another controversial artwork, with his genitals on full display. However, the artist says it is not about Zuma or his sex life. He says his work embodies life for the people in South Africa today.
Ayanda Mabulu recently unveiled his painting, The Pornography of Power, which depicts Jacob Zuma standing and laughing, holding a teddy bear behind his back, while a young woman, tied with a rope, gives him oral sex. At the same time, the woman is being violated from behind by a hyena and is being milked, with the milk running into a can marked with the ANC’s logo. The circus tent that acts as a backdrop to the painting bears the ANC ruling party’s logo.
In my view, The Pornography of Power is the Boldest statement made thus far. NB: Note that I’m talking artistic expression, not morality.
— Kagiso Moletsane (@MoletsaneKE_fx) October 12, 2015
The full painting can be viewed here — however readers are warned that the artwork is of a graphic nature. The video below features an interview with Mabulu about the new painting. Viewers are again warned that there are scenes of a graphic nature in the video footage.
Mabulu is based at the Bag Factory artist studios in Johannesburg and spoke of the meaning behind his new and controversial artwork, explaining that the teddy bear behind Jacob Zuma’s back signifies the age of the child, referring to South Africa’s young democracy, being held back.
The young woman giving Jacob Zuma oral sex represents a slave being tamed in order to be of use to the country’s economy. The fact that she is being raped from behind by a hyena symbolizes the actions of the commercial and mining giants in South Africa.
The milking of the woman into a can bearing the ANC logo and the colonial-style clothing of the hyena speak to the fact that power in the country is still retained by the US and Britain, as it was before apartheid was removed.
Your thoughts on new painting on Pres Jacob Zuma? Painting is titled Spear Down My Throat (The Pornography of Power) pic.twitter.com/bwaWB4v0lq
— channelZim (@channelZim) October 13, 2015
The painting, according to Mabulu, depicts President Jacob Zuma as “taking pleasure at the same time, laughing like a hyena.”
In the video Mabulu, 33, said of the painting, “It’s about the situation that we are in in the country.”
“There is no more time to decide to try and beat around the bush when you are painting. I made it my journey to paint and write and talk about what’s happening in our society.”
The artist explained that the painting expresses many of the views of Steve Biko and Franz Fanon and the slave “trainer” Willie Lynch.
“I am talking about being f****d. We are being f****d by parliamentarians, we are being molested.”
According to News24, Mabulu went on to say that anything happening to ordinary citizens in society in South Africa has become a “laughing stock.” Mabulu said that any opposing party that heads into Parliament and questions the ANC makes them laugh.
The young girl in the painting is, according to Mabulu, suffering from hunger and is submissive. She is being milked dry by the ANC, just as “the country is being milked dry by the ANC.”
“She can’t breathe. She is forced to have direct eye contact with the president in many ways.”
Speaking of the problems experienced by normal every day citizens in South Africa, Mabulu asks how else they can talk about this as artists.
Mabulu is not the first South African artist to depict Jacob Zuma’s genitals as part of social commentary. Back in 2012 artist Brett Murray caused outrage and an urgent court application by the ANC when he painted The Spear and put the artwork on display in an art gallery. That painting can be viewed here, with a warning that the image is graphic. The City Press newspaper in South Africa published a photo of the controversial painting in May 2012, but subsequently removed it from its website.
Charl Bezuidenhout of the World Art Gallery in Cape Town explained that artists like Mabulu are not necessarily aiming their work at Jacob Zuma himself, but are, instead, showing a deeper understanding of the problems in South Africa.
EWN quotes Witwatersrand University Professor Raimi Gbadamosi as standing up for the artist, saying boundaries are for those who think that human imagination should be limited.
“Someone can argue that one purpose of art is to hold a mirror up to society, and if it does that job it might not be savory or it might be delightful. As long as it performs the role it sets out to carry out in the first place, I would argue that this is the role of art.”
According to a spokesperson from the ANC, Zizi Kodwa, the party has not yet had time to view the painting, as they are involved in their National General Council discussions at present, meaning that so far, there is no comment.
[Images: Screen capture of video courtesy EWN]