(Written 19 May 2012)

Dear all,

It is a sad day for a country when its president can be represented in a work of art in a way that may be described as ‘distasteful and vulgar’, and yet, it is a piece that works on many levels.

‘The Spear’ by Brett Murray (2012)   —   A propaganda poster of a heroic Lenin

According to Times Live at http://www.timeslive.co.za/ the ANC considers The Spear to be “a clear calculation to dismember and denigrate the symbols and the representatives of the ANC, chief among them, the president of the ANC”, and while I have no idea what Murray intended by this work, it certainly is one that has resonance in the land in 2012.

‘MK’, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the military wing of the ANC, was established in 1961. It was formed amid lofty ideals with its first High Command being the now revered trio of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Joe Slovo. There is good reason to believe that MK was never an effective fighting force, but there is no doubt that it carries great symbolism in South Africa in that it holds a romantic position in the liberation of the country. 50 years ago The Spear was a knight in shining armour that offered “a better life for all” and as depicted in the ANC logo, a fist holding a spear “represents the power of a people united in struggle for freedom and equality”. The Spear used to be a symbol of something honourable.

The ANC logoThe ANC’s logo

Let us assume that Zuma really is the best that the ANC can offer by way of leadership and let us assume that the majority of members of the ANC identify with this man. By extension we have to assume that Zuma symbolises who we are as a nation. Now let us ask the question, “Does this painting represent what has happened to South Africans over the last 10 years?” Does the corruption of The Spear as depicted in this painting reflect the corruption of every other aspect of life in this country during the Zuma watch? Does this painting symbolise a Zuma administration that systematically seeks to appoint cronies as senior police officials, that seeks to do away with  judicial bar councils, and all the while seeks to protect the corrupt through the Protection of State Information Bill? Sadly, I think so.

Of course, Jacob is not the first president unable to keep his ‘dick in his pants’, Bill Clinton springs to mind. And in this regard, I think that what happens between Jacob and his wives and girlfriends in their respective bedrooms should stay in their bedrooms. Further, whether he is or isn’t well hung is also not of public interest; so in this sense I do find Murray’s painting a personal insult to the man. As much as I consider Zuma morally unfit to lead a young struggling democracy, I agree with the ANC that it is a denigration of the person that is Jacob.

But at the same time I strongly believe that Murray’s The Spear symbolises the dismemberment and denigration of the moral fibre that once was the ANC… but that corruption was not done by the artist, it was done by the rapacious leadership of the ANC.