The artist has explained his paintings were inspired by the state of the country and his hatred of the president, but the ANC has condemned them as an abuse of freedom.
Everyone’s still talking about Ayanda Mabulu and the presidential tongue lick that set tongues wagging on social media and around dinner tables.
The Citizen caught up with the controversial artist at Constitution Hill, where the works are being exhibited. He is one of 11 “born-free” artists on exhibit with the theme of South Africa before and after democracy.
When asked the very obvious question of what inspired him to paint his pornographic grotesques, he answered that it was simply the state of the country that inspired him. He explained that all the “crimes “that Zuma committed alongside the Gupta brothers was putting the people of the country into a dehumanising position. He also said that, in his opinion, what the president was doing was not only an issue of dehumanisation but one of disrespect towards black people and other citizens in the country.
He told reporters that by “stripping them out of their underwear” he was “exposing that what is hidden”.
“The naked truth that you hide. It must come out so that you tell people the truth.
“The economy of the country is crashing. Socially the country is in ruins. People of the country are looked at as nothing … who is to be blamed? The ruling party, the politicians. And who’s driving that? The president, who’s doing all of that with the Gupta guys … he’s selling us out and doing all those things.
“Do we as artists have to make something nice?”
He had earlier said there was nothing to love about Zuma. “I hate him. Does that make me a bad person?”
When asked whether his provocative artwork had been valued, Mabulu confirmed that they had, but he did not want to disclose what they would be priced at.
A comparable piece of artistic satire that also had the country in uproar, The Spear, is believed to have sold for or R136 000 to a German art collector – even after it was badly defaced by two protesters at the Goodman art gallery in Johannesburg. The ANC had marched to the gallery in protest at that painting, which it said infringed on President Zuma’s right to dignity.
The ruling party has dismissed Mabulu’s paintings as “vulgar and disrespectful” and wants South Africans to condemn them. ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa told The Star on Wednesday that the paintings “abused freedom of expression”. He said they went “beyond what satire is about”.
He said that exercising freedom of expression could not be done by undermining the dignity of another person. He added that Mabulu’s paintings were a distraction for the ANC from its far more important task of having its leaders campaign for the upcoming elections.
Mabulu’s previous painting Umshini Wam also showed Zuma with his private parts exposed, and another shows Zuma having a sexual act performed on him by a woman with a saddle on her back while a man in a colonial outfit and the face of a hyena is having sex with her. He explained that the painting was a commentary on South Africa being raped by big business with politicians enjoying some of the fruits of those spoils.