A South African court has postponed indefinitely the application to ban the controversial Brett Murray painting, The Spear, the shocking painting which features genitals on the image of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
The South Gauteng High Court ruled thus on Thursday after hearing the application by the ruling ANC asking that Murray’s painting be taken down from its display at the Goodman Gallery and that images of “The Spear” be removed from the City Press’ website.
During the hearing, SAPA reported, Judge Neels Claassen asked the ANC’s attorney Advocate Gcina Malindi, if the ANC would still be making a case if Murray had placed FW de Klerk’s head on the painting.
While the ANC concedes that as President, Zuma loses his right to privacy, the painting which depicts the president with his genitals exposed, is considered hurtful.
Zuma said he was shocked and had felt personally offended and violated when he saw a copy of the painting, the City Press, who put up a photograph of the controversial painting on its website, reported.
South Africa’s polygamist President, who is now husband to six wives, said the painting wrongfully depicts him as a “philanderer, a womanizer and one with no respect”.
In an affidavit to the court, Murray, a Cape Town artist, said he never meant for his artwork to “cause any hurt or to harm the dignity of any person”, the Cape Times reported. He, however, refused to comment on the court’s decision to postpone the application seeking to ban his work.
The court judge had said banning the artwork from the gallery will not work as photographs of the Zuma painting, complete with exposed genitals, have now flooded the internet.
“The Spear” caused nationwide debate and anger when it was displayed at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg last week, a part of Murray’s exhibition Hail to the Thief II.
Zuma painting defaced
The gallery later closed its doors after the portrait was defaced by two people, who were later arrested, while a third person was arrested outside the premises.
The two men who defaced the painting – Barend la Grange, a 58 year old white man, and a younger black man, Lowie Mabokela – say they did not know each other until after they were arrested. The video above shows gallery guards apprehending both men.
La Grange, seen in the video making two large crosses with red paint over Zuma’s face and exposed penis in the painting, says he did so to “deracialise the painting”.
He told reporters, “we have better things to worry about,” adding that since it was “an insensitive creation by a white person”, it felt right that he deface it.
La Grange and Mabokela face charges of malicious damage to property. On Wednesday, the Hillbrow Magistrate Court postponed their case to June 28 for further investigation
Art experts say since the paint used to deface Murray’s controversial artwork was oil-based, there is hope that the painting could be savaged. The artist’s attorney, Okyerebea Ampofo-Anti, said she would not release the affidavit to the media as the case was “sensitive”.
Murray has defended his work in local papers as “an attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy within the context of other artworks in the exhibition and within the broader context of South African discourse”.
The artist said that during the apartheid he had created satirical images which attacked abuses of power. Murray said he had used, and would continue to use, symbols with sexual connotations representative of political power and patriarchy.