Ayanda Mabulu vs Brett Murray

by Unathi Kondile

Firstly, I’d like to thank Brett Murray for his contribution to the arts.

Secondly, I wish I could deliver canapés and wine to all the South African households who have had the privilege of entering a gallery from the comfort of their homes, courtesy of our media’s walkabouts therein.

Thirdly, I’d like to talk about the state of the Art, in South Africa, as well as the neglected role of township / black artists in post-apartheid South Africa.

Let’s just rewind to 2010. An artist named Ayanda Mabulu. Pause. I thought this was a pseudonym at first, because this name and surname combo means “Afrikaners are expanding!” You have to love the irony of naming in Africa. Anyway, Ayanda Mabulu produces a piece titled “Ngcono ihlwempu kunesibhanxo sesityebi” (better a fool than a rich man’s nonsense, loosely translated). It’s exhibited at Worldart Gallery towards the end of 2010. This is it:

Without going into too much detail about the work (above), it shows President Jacob Zuma’s manhood in crutches and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s manhood tied up as if it’s injured (both blurred out for the purposes of this site). Mabulu explained these representations as metaphors – the crutches on the president’s manhood indicate overuse and that it needs crutches to get by. Tutu’s tied up manhood alludes to how weakened the Archbishop has become, he is “incapacitated and ‘colonised’ by Western values – in pain, just like during initiation [circumcision].”

I would imagine such prominent penises would cause an outcry of bellowing proportions. But alas, calm prevailed, largely because this work remained in the elitist confines of the art world. Protected from the underdeveloped minds of those that aren’t acquainted to fine art. Protected from uncouth admirers who would gobble this up all too literally. Safe. ‘Outsiders’ could not access it and the media couldn’t give a toss about what some black artist had done.

Forward to today. Brett Murray produces The Spear which depicts the president of South Africa in a Lenin-like stance with his manhood dangling below. The City Press newspaper picks this spear up and runs with it. And boy do they run with it. The editor is beyond herself with bewilderment of selling papers to an art consuming market. She can’t wait. All those art connoisseurs buying her paper. Praise Murray! A few days later the ANC is up in arms about this depiction of the president. They’re even up in arms with the City Press, which gave a hand in the distribution… The rest is history, as they say. As all of this is relegated to the country’s latest frenzy – outcry on social media and only one or two iconoclastically inclined vandals are bold enough to do something about the work.

Question is: Why was there no outcry over Ayanda Mabulu’s depiction of president Zuma?

Yes, Brett Murray is a renowned artist (within his own or art circles), but not to the overwhelming majority that is against his work. Who he is is irrelevant to this outcry. So, why was there no outrage around Mabulu’s work? The answer to this is much more complex than because he is a black artist or it’s politics. The answer to this could tear South Africa’s art farce to pieces. Shred it. But today I do not feel like tearing anything. So I’ll be gentle. If we look at the current crop of black South African artists that are going places or have made it you will largely notice that their work revolves around identity: blackness and sexuality to be precise. Nothing else.

Whereas if you look at their white counterparts, who went to the same art institutions – they have the leisure of placing a box of Omo next to a box of Joko and calling that Joko Omo (Yoko Ono) in an art gallery. And praise prevails. If a black artist were to attempt to display such it would be ignored, laughed off as imbecility and not art. Only white artists are capable of conceptual art production. Blacks have to stick to the obvious “speak about yourself in your work! Tell us how lesbian you are, how black you feel, etcetera. Only.”

I could go on. But to keep this short, the reason Ayanda Mabulu’s artwork didn’t cause ripples is because  as far as art is concerned a black artist is intellectually incapable of producing a complex work – blacks are incapable of satire – until they are verified by their white counterparts. No conceptualism, surrealism, avant-gardism, post-modernism or post-postmodernism in black art. Keep it simple. Black stories must always be kept straightforward so as to not confuse the white reader.

It is only when the African story is told through the white lens that newspapers and the general public will pay attention. There are so many black artists in this country producing artworks that are screaming to be heard. Producing artworks about township life, poverty, inequality and how government has failed them. But I am afraid, until the overwhelmingly white curators, educators and narrators of art decide that such work is also art, we will only see the Mabulus when said white curator and white art educators are trying to defend their Brett Murrays. Suddenly we hear, “but Ayanda Mabulu did it too!” oh, so all along you knew about Mabulu’s work but failed to heap it with praise like you do to the Murrays? Okay.

So once again, I would like to thank Brett Murray for his artwork that has put art on the media map once again. The lack of media attention to Fine Art is a disgrace in this country. Considering we have a long history of resistance art that contributed to the liberation of this country too.

Today, more than ever, I feel that art can be flung out of those white cube spaces such as the Goodman Gallery and into public discourse, much like The Spear has been thrown around – so that it challenges the public and stimulates this kind of debate. Art must and can challenge service delivery in this country. It can challenge corruption, even. But the problem is that no one will pay attention to such art when it comes from black artists and if it comes from a white artist it will be dismissed as racism or black contempt easily.

I am hoping that all of this will cast light on the plight of black artists who are not allowed, by artistic norms and art education to express themselves beyond my-identity-this-my-identity-that.

Fine Art, like many other spears spheres of the Arts plays a fundamental role in the development of a society.

I trust that the media will keep its ear on the Fine Art ground from here onwards. There are stories there.

p.s: if you’re wondering how this ties up with Eastern Cape education and this site’s theme – think of the many young black children who will never realise their dreams as artists there, because of all the problems I’ve listed herein. Oh, and Ayanda Mabulu is from the Eastern Cape – King Williams Town to be exact.

55 thoughts on “Ayanda Mabulu vs Brett Murray

  1. Im just wondering, if Brett Murray was black and did the same painting, would the ANC be shouting Racist? What would they be shout. Thoughts???

    • if Brett Murray was black this artwork wouldn’t have even made it into the Goodman Gallery nor into the pages of the City Press… The City Press and Media24 wouldn’t have pushed so hard to distribute it (even on social networks). Much like Ayanda Mabulu’s didn’t and hence no outcry would be forthcoming

      • I notice a new version of the painting is up on your blog. The offending bits have been paintbrushed away. What’s up with the self-censoring?

    • Shift attention from? Ever since Julius Malema faded we have seen a scramble for new news by our media houses. Without even, going as far as politics, let’s first stop and take a look at how the media really ensured extra-mileage for this story. It took the ANC four days to respond to this artwork and that response was a direct result of the pressure the City Press and other Media24 titles, together with social media exerted. Why did the media work so hard on pushing Murray’s artwork to top the agenda? Why didn’t they do they same for Mabulu’s? The answer to these questions will also make it very clear who sets national discourse. It is the media. Not politicians. You think, react and speak according to what the media decides for you. The City Press worked very hard on this one.

      • Shift attention from all the corruption, backhand deals, dodgy police commissioners, tender irregularities, increases being payed to suspended fraudsters, service delivery protests….. the list goes on. Must I continue?
        And for the record, it was the completely childish reaction by Zuma and the ANC that pushed Murray’s art to the top of the agenda nothing else. Did you see many stories about the naked picture of Zille??? No you did not because she did not behave like a kid who had his lunchbox stolen. And in all honesty, if Zuma had the slightest bit of morals and decency and did not impregnate a small village, Murray would have probably painted him with his tool in is pants.

  2. For the sake of clarity, the following: The painting by Ayanda Mabulu referred to above was hung in a very prominent place in a “white cube” gallery in Cape Town. An exhibition review was published in The Cape Times on 8 November 2012 (read it here – http://www.worldart.co.za/media/) together with a large image of the painting. There was no outcry because the ANC did not threaten to go to court about it. If anyone is to blame for double standards here, it is the ANC and not the media nor the arts establishment.

    • I’m not very sure about “very prominent place” when referring to a space no bigger than a kiddies bedroom, which is neatly hidden in an alley in the Cape Town CBD. Respectable perhaps, but ‘prominent’ is a stretch.

      We cannot compare the Cape Times to a national Sunday paper like the City Press which has a wider reach into a readership that might take offense and rouse up the ANC. So chances that a Cape town paper in a largely DA constituency would cause ripples nationally are quite low. I will not reduce this to political parties and would rather we stick to the theme of why it didn’t cause controversy and how Ayanda Mabulu’s work is viewed by his white peers in this industry and why his work still retails for such low prices?

      Ever since Julius Malema disappeared from newspapers we are finding that newspapers are now making room for ‘other’ stories (on art even) – the media, national to be specific, is largely to blame for the paucity of art news and debates in this country, because they do not accord the arts as much space. As for the arts establishment – I will not enter that debate, it is well known how polarized, white and elitist it all is, particularly in Cape Town – talent like Ayanda’s goes by largely ignored until a white person decides to give them a hand and space within their galleries. Whatever happened to good art, being good art? Why a white helping hand before recognition? That is exactly what this piece is seeking to address – the plight of young black artists and how they need white verification prior to their work lifting off or even being debatable. Why?

      • As a white person I enter this debate with some trepidation: Unathi, I support what you have to say here and suggest the media should be more self-critical in examining the mythologies they are responsible for creating and perpetuating. Not only is there sparse coverage of the arts but, more importantly, the little space it is afforded lacks a semblance of depth (frankly, I see more nuanced analysis daily on the copious sports pages). The media are guilty of cowardice and sloth: underestimating the intellectual capacity of their audience and regurgitating the perspectives fed them by the Public Relations Industry.

  3. Sies! How can art be so distasteful. To all those who think this ,and the Brett pic, was artistic go pose naked and sell it at your childrens’ school for charity! oh by the way describe how your privates are metaphors for a better education.

    • Ben, Ben, I think that people are trying so hard to be “out-there” and original about their art that they feel compelled to put nudity up and call it art and hope it sells and what better way to get attention and an art work to sell than putting a famous face to it.

      The culture of art in black culture is failing precisely because our artists aren’t trying to sell their art to us (black communities) but to white communities… that teach us how to view art from a western perspective… (I was an art student at school and the only black artists I heard of amid the sea artists were Velaphi Mzimba and….cave paintings. REALY)

      The key to getting black artists praised and lauded (thus inspiring a new generation) in their communities and respected is to get the buy-in of the parents – and you WILL NOT get black parents to buy into nudity and the excessive disrespect of the elders.

      As much as we want to shine the beacon of our “liberated worldly” minds we are our parent’s children and belong to out black communities which have every right to believe in their customs and norms.

      Why hasn’t anyone tried to incorporate our proud artistic history with the new world? Why are we happy to consider our bead-work and face paintings as common rural works that are brought only by tourists…? Why are we so quick to disregard these as art and simply say it’s not progressive. (Well Western art was not progressive at some point but they didn’t trek to Africa to see what they could copy – instead they set their own rules about art and what’s acceptable. Why can’t we?) Why should a western art lover by the work of a young black artist who does nothing but regurgitate what he’s learnt in white institutions and create work which he himself can buy from his own people. What is original and new about Ayanda besides the historical influence of the Michael Angelo’s (and their David’s’).

      We are saying that nudity and disregard of our elders is art – I wish Bret Murray would stand next to this painting in the Middle East (you ask what this has to do with the Middle East…? and Black Society…?) Well the western world is so quick to shove their western views of art, on what some have the audacity to refer to as; “ignorant” blacks (look at the social media and read comments from white art lovers to the outcry by “black” community to The Spear) the very people who taught the Ayanda’s of this world (and myself) and that exposing nudity is ones freedom of expression and human right! And we should just take it and move on – Our leaders are useless anyway and deserve this kind of exposiour… And some of us burry our heads in the sand and say yes artist you’re right this is sophisticated thinking of the new age where we should dust our brains and remove the cobwebs of our history, traditions and upbringing.

      The big question is; “Are we really going to lay morals and sense of dignity by the river bank for the sake of art…?” in Which case Ben is correct to say that let them paint themselves in the nude and display the works in their children’s schools and explain the satire.

  4. As an artist myself – documentary – I agree with your analysis Unathi what a breath of fresh air reading your article.

  5. Thought provoking. The central question/s I feel must be answered by the broader black community.It leads me to ask how do we create a more diverse world of curators/art educators? How do we create platforms for young artists that tell different & relevant stories? How do we develop a market that will ‘consume’ and be challenged by such art pieces from black artists? We need solutions. I’m going to think about it. Thanks for an enlightening piece.

  6. So now it has been made public, are they going to deface it, get it removed from the public eye or heaven helps us ,,, put the artist to death? I think not, a case of double standards methinks.

  7. there are so many other things that are going on in the mabulu paintings as well. the national party pig continuing to eat from the trough, the gay rights angle, but most strongly — the bit that shows mandela not being able to speak for himself, but is only allowed to speak through the foundation.

    i heard the live interview with mabulu on the eNews channel. and it only aired once because mabulu was very vocal about the zuma’s and the anc’s shortcoming using language that is, to put it politely, not suitable for television.

    i think that if mabulu had had that exposure, and his painting were to cause the ire to a similar level of brett murray’s, he would have been standing in the gallery next to the painting, with a sjambok, ready to moer anyone who would dare even think of it. you really needed to hear that interview.

    brett murray, on the other hand, sounds like a fragile delicate flower worried about what people will think — not entirely unlike mnr le grange. personally, i think that’s why the anc left mabulu alone. i honestly don’t think the bullies in the party are honestly ready for a black man to tell them, in xhosa, where they can go — and had his painting gotten this level of attention from the party, that would have been precisely what happened.

  8. thank you. i enjoyed this intelligent reflection.

    i shared your frustration that little has been made of ayanda mabulo’s work (which to my mind is a far better work than bret murray’s).

    i think this debate as been good. it brings to attention the role of art and protest art, and has got us thinking. we can only go on from here, and the coverage that mabulo has recently received in all types of media has indeed been fabulous. don’t forget that there are plenty of good black artists who have gained recognition and media attention in south africa, and that recognition is a challenge that all artists face regardless of colour.

  9. Unathi Kondile is completely correct about the skewed state of the art world and its a travesty that the majority of readers have only now become aware of the painting by Ayanda Mabula, which envokes Freudian symbolism at its crudest, but displays as much intelligence and irony as Murray’s work. To call the art world ‘racist’ would be a bit simplistic and I don’t think that Kondile is suggesting this as bluntly as that. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the art world is not about what you know, but who you know. If you’re not inclined to arse-lick the top galleries, or even if you never had an opportunity to, you are simply nobody and your statements become nul and void, regardless of your talent. It really doesn’t bode well for artists outside of the mainstream, and naturally in a capitalist economy the rich and indulged get richer and more indulged, and everyone else gets cast on the scrap-heap of irrelevance. Keep up the good work Unathi and Ayanda- I don’t know if you’ll ever become cult heroes of our culture, but I think you deserve to be- for bravery, outspokeness and intelligence in the face of tremendous odds!!!

    • I completely agree with you Anthony. Lets hope that articles like this are heard and can change the art world for the better.

  10. Pingback: Osiame Molefe | Speculative Thinker

  11. Great and thought provoking. Debate and discourse is good. This is an article from someone who is not lazy to think and if anything its got me thinking….

  12. Thanks so much for this. :)
    Onwards and upwards. Personally I’m not a big fan of murray and I agree, thanks to this ridiculous popular art frenzy I found THIS. So I guess it has its place.
    Personally I will pay more attention to the reality that black artists are not getting the exposure they deserve as it is being filtered through white money and opinion, which, to be honest has become dreadfully dull.
    Anyways. Wishing only the best.

    • Though, thanks to Amanda’s insight, it is also important to remember that all artists face the same obstacles in terms of getting recognition!

  13. Thank you Brotha for stating the obvious…as a black artist in NY, it’s the same kind of shenanigans our media/politicians (which are one in the same) engage in…keep shedding the light on the issues!

  14. Hi Unathi

    I really don’t think this has anything to do with the plight of young black artists, but rather the plight of young artists in general.
    I’ve known Ayanda for a while. I’ve seen how far his work has come conceptually in the last few years, and am really impressed by it. I am not so impressed by his technique, though. Like most young artists, he has to find not only his conceptual voice, but his technical one as well. And like most young artists, if he keeps working as hard as he does, he will become a better painter and garner more recognition/appreciation.
    Brett Murray can’t be compared to Ayanda here because he is a well-established artist who has been working for decades and so has more practice and is also better known. Ayanda will get bigger solo shows once he’s built up his career a bit more. The same goes for all the young artists I come across – unless you get lucky, it really takes time.

    Very interesting take on the ‘-ism’ side of things though….really got me thinking…..

  15. I think Mabulu needs to look to his curator for the lack of exposure. We can’t always blame it on “the other” when it comes to art, just like Zahara and “alleged abuse” – why are artists not putting themselves out there? Does anyone know where the painting is now? I think its a heavy painting (symbolism wise). Joh. Heavy. There are too few black artists but is that a reflection of the artists or the art world?

  16. Unathi,there was an outcry about Mabulu’s artwork,but the difference is that it wasn’t as loud.The timing of Murrays artwork,also come at an abnormal time in the ANC,remember Mangaung is almost upon us,the anouncement of changes by the ANC to allow for economic transformation,alas Murray comes with a perfect smokescreen for them,and the cherry on top is that Murray is white.

  17. I’m a white man from Europe who lives in Downtown Pretoria. I think I’m one of the few white people that live in this area. The experience really contradicts some of the assertions made in this article.

    The point “No conceptualism, surrealism, avant-gardism, post-modernism or post-postmodernism in black art. Keep it simple.”

    Reminds me of the Pretoria Museum of Art which is a few minutes walk from my flat. It’s an amazing place and has some artwork from the 60’s that stuck in my mind as incredible. Proto-abstract-expressionism, it looks like Jean-Michel Basquiat but must have been made 20 years before.

    The one shocking thing is that the gallery is always empty. I’ve never seen anyone in there. Its about 8 rand to get in which is like less than a beer and an amazing testament to black South African Culture. But the 10s of thousands of black South Africans that live around it aren’t interested.

    It seems to me that generally black South Africans aren’t interested in painting and sculpture as an art form. Music, German cars, Chinese electronics and Italian clothes, seems to be the desired art form and as every economist can tell you demand is everything. I must admit all those things are great but I also love art so I’m sad to see it under appreciated.

    I’d say stop complaining about galleries being run by white South Africans and ask why it is that black artists doesn’t appeal to the masses

  18. let us not forget that the exhibition had other pieces, the theme being about the depressing state of the ANC; if the focus on the alleged shame and insult was to hide the potent denounce of corruption? I love the piece ‘I stand for – chivas, bmws and bribes’.

  19. I fully agree with your opinion, I just have a question; where are the black curators and black media. Cant they do something to support black artists?

  20. I fully agree with the fact the art has different level of interpretations. So in the boundaries of our democracy, a piece of art is entitled to it’s freedom, irrespective of how displeasing if might appear to some. No government or organization should interfere, unless they purchase the painting.

    What I do not agree with, is public disrespect. The spear is clearly disrespectful of our president. As much as I do not agree with Zuma actions, and his reign of rule, I still view his “position” as one that demands respect. If the newspaper do not show respect to the president, then what will ordinary citizens do?

    My conclusion is that this art piece, has fueled a movement of civil disobedience. I believe that many citizens are unhappy with Zuma, and hence this. The ANC government is now seeing more clearly the benefits of communism and state power. It’s either them or our democracy eventually.

  21. Thanks, Unathi. A thought provoking piece…

    The City Press like other newspapers is a business. As long as they don’t break any law, I would hope that they would publish whatever goes with their narrative as many times as they like. And all newspapers have an individual narrative. People stop buying what they don’t like. It is the responsibility of the government to make sure that there are independent checks and balances on media ownership to ensure plurality.

    For me this whole saga illustrates, again, the difficulties that governments and the judiciary around the world are having in this age of social media. That horse bolted as soon as the ANC itself mentioned ‘The Spear’. And we’ll continue to look up Zapiro’s cartoons as long as they are topical. If they were not topical, both are ‘quite ordinary and do not deserve the mega hype’. Without discounting your arguments, I think another reason Ayanda Mabulu didn’t get as much ire is that the ANC did not bat an eye.

    An unfavourable critique will come out again and the office of the presidency will have to respond in a manner befitting its stature. They can’t keep on getting down here in a muddy scrap with us all. It’s not dignified, which ironically is the original complaint about the painting/ cartoons. I can’t be the only one wondering if the president’s communications and PR office is staffed at all.

  22. Thanx for a very insightful article, we r dealing with a science here, a science is a political n social language of a people, without a culture you have no way to define what a science is cos it is based on your culture, it serves the needs of the culture.
    You see we have to redefine a lot of things and it takes time to get rid of this European education which we all have, we all have been bitten by white supremacy and in some way we are dysfunctional. When you not free to practice your culture at all times in all situations, you are dysfuntional.

    You cannot have art without science you cannot have science without art. The male n female principles in African science.

    If you studying African science its supposed to make you more spiritual,closer to nature closer to God, if it doesn’t do that, all you dealing with is a political n social language of the Europeans.

  23. Why has Tokyo or Cyril not built a Art Gallery and put black artist works in them. A month ago Cyril bought a Buffalo Bull for R5 bar. I find that obscene and undignified. We may not like the Afrikaaner, but he looked after his own when he was politically in charge.

    Black man open your eyes and wake up!
    You’ve been asleep for over 400 years
    Malcom X

  24. The faces except for mugabe and Obama’s do not resemble the real people and of couse
    The little does not have a direct pointer to the people she wished to Depict!! Save only for her interpretations, Have you ever head about being Brain washed! Or miss led !!

  25. My 2 cents worth. I’ve been peripherally involved with some art exhibitions over the last 8 months.

    Some were really good (1000 drawings) and some were absolute rubbish (to remain anonymous to protect the egos of those involved.

    One in particular really pushed the envelope regarding nudity and sexual innuendo – to no great effect in my opinion. One art video showed a topless black lady knitting for 22 minutes! Art? I don’t think so (ps by a black video artist).

    What do I consider art? http://umuziphotoclub.blogspot.com/ Check these photos out. That is art. You can also view them in Melle Str (near De Korte), Braamfontein, on massive posters on the sides of buildings.

    That is art.

    Murray and Ayanda are trying too hard. It is useless.

    As to the author of this piece, Unathi. I appreciate your passion, by really, playing the victim card AGAIN? Honestly, from my vantage point I fail to see blacks doing what their white counterparts are doing to PROMOTE black arts and culture. I’m not talking government, I am talking people doing this.

    The company I work for, which actually doesn’t have anything to do with arts or culture, bend over backwards to host events – free off charge most of the time – when ASKED to do so. I have personally worked, also free of charge, in my own time, on these events. The last one was by a young black music company promoting black music. What a great evening, and we even had Toya Delazy doing an impromptu set. Outstanding evening. For me, it was work, it was pure joy.

    My reason for making the effort to write this? Stop moaning, get up, promote, and ASK people to assist. You actually don’t need the likes of the Goodman Gallery (which I hadn’t even heard of before this debacle) to get WIDER exposure. LOTS of people want to help, so just ask. Oh, and you are so far off the money concerning what is expected from black artists. You need to start hanging out with real people, not the art crowd who are so far removed from reality, they might as well exist in a different universe.

    The best sculpture I have EVER seen? Three lions carved out of ironwood (I was told), at a market halfway between Windhoek and Walvis Bay. No nudity required. Worth triple the R5000 the artist was asking.

  26. i once asked a wise man what is the point of art. he said: it has no point if it is the true outcome of unalienated labour. he was a marxist of course. sadly, the product of alienated art labour ends up being fought for recognition of its context, mostly by its maker (the alienated one) who feels misunderstood, or spoken for by the “other”, whom ever that “other” may be. that art maker exists in an unequal power relationship between his product and his belief in its context. that artist it may be said is delusional.

  27. Thanks Unathi for the most measured and thought provoking piece yet. Please check out http://www.ilisolabantu.org – an organisation that my husband works with training photographers and doing workshops to document their lives. They then hold the exhiibition in the Township they have documented by stringing the laminated prints to a convenient container or similar so that everyone can come and see the work. They recently had their first more formal exhibition at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town. Many of the photographers are now earning a living from photography and engaging in the art world by exhibiting their work internationally. We always welcome working photographers to come and teach and inspire the group so please let me know if you have any ideas around this. Thank you!

  28. Great article, it points to an even bigger issue that people seem to be missing out on. The idea of so called Free press in South Africa. First off, like many situations in South Africa, on paper we look good. In practice, not so. The press in South Africa do alot of filtering of their own & this results in them imposing opinions on the public, where they’re service is supposed to be presented impartialy. They picket and march around the very issue of free press but behind closed doors they choose what’s news and what isn’t. They are a properganda machine that’s in service of who is really running the country. They perpetuate this bullshit stigma that black South Africans should rely on the government for their well being and all things regarding, psychologically reducing us to animals who can’t fend for themselves. Reporting on corruption in the ANC or whatever underhanded business a government entity might be involved in. Never on whaats going on in Cape Town with the DA’s one sided service delivery system and lack thereof. Or why isn’t anyone looking into the black middle class developement issue. In short and in other words they report news that affects white people because they are 80% of the economy, pay the bulk of the tax that these fat cats rip off and they own most of the infrastructure these guys are utilizing.
    With regards to the art issue, racism in media is nothing new. It has nothing to do with the government, its got everything to do with the white people that run it and participate in it.Unlike they’re American & European counterparts, who have long since dismissed racism as archaic, anti-developmental and unpatriotic. Our guys refuse to…move on. Now before I continue, I would like to point out that, I do believe that there are white people out there who aren’t racist and I do believe in unity for a greater good of this country which is why I bring up this issue to be addressed fuck it. Let me tell you now, the white person’s capacity for racism is so dynamic that he or she can date a black person and hate black people. If you think I’m bullshitting, go work for an advertising firm anywhere here. Cape Town is the real South Africa, not jo’burg. Believe you me, South Africa has the highest population of liberal racists out there. These guys will read this blog, process it, type a comment in agreement. And carry on business as usual. These are the same white guys that tell us what African looks like, which ofcourse is a derivative viewpoint like most ideas in South Africa. And they also decide what and what isn’t African. The sad thing is they’re only there purely by circumstance because of…well who they are. Now looking at the so called arts in South Africa, most of it is a collage of borrowed ideas. Even as far as technique, composition, approach and opinion, it’s never sure of itself. Always waiting for its Eurpean or American master to come by and either give it a nod or a nay. This filters right through to our dealers. They don’t know better, they’re expertise is purely linear and academic and it’s opinion is about as fresh as the overseas art rags they subscribe to. Telling them what’s in and what’s not. They are the result of a collection of borrowed perspectives. Cut and paste. But black people need to also look at themselves and ask themselves, “Why are we taking it up the ass like we are? And doing nothing about it?” the world is against us, the government won’t do shit for us and if you think white liberals have more to offer you than what they can benefit from the scenario, then we deserve to be where we are. As black people, we need to stop attending pity parties, stop looking to others to help us get what’s ours and go out there and get it. White people do the same thing. Afrikaners roll up their sleeves and beat the odds daily,Nigerians & Kenyans too. Why not South Africans? Its like we’re missing this killer instinct that everyone else seems to have coz in all honesty, if we had it. Racism wouldn’t even be an issue anymore because we wouldn’t take that shit. Our art would have a lot more intention and would look more convincing. We’d realise that it’s actually not a black and white thing but a who pledges alliegence to South Africa & who doesn’t thing. By the way I’m not saying all white people are racist. What I am saying is a lot of them are indifferent to a lot of the real issues we deal with aside from corruption, e-Tolling and whatever bullshit directly affects them.

  29. Pingback: read / the past seven days « killingbirdswithstones

  30. So the question needs to be asked, is Murray’s painting considered to be wrong in the light that Mabulu’s painting depicted the same “content” that set an uproar? And nothing was done in Mabulu’s case. To me and any other person who views the art, they both contain the genitles of Zuma which caused the upset, the only difference is the artists? Why should that make a difference? Should one artist have more of a right to depict such art? Whether one artist is more successful than the other.

    I’ve read through this article and kind of got the feeling that Mabulu has not reached the artistic status of Murray as of yet. As talented as he may be, like in any other factor of work or life your talent must be supported with reputation otherwise you will go unnoticed.. Music, sport, professions, all these require talent (like Mabulu), but are useless if not recognised. Its an on going debate as to whether he is going unnoticed because he is a “black man” telling the african story. To me art is matter of personal taste with the story behind it being interesting and pulling you into the art. As much as the stories behind these pieces are interesting, they both are not appealing to me.

    Thanks for the insight Unathi.

  31. Putting Race aside for a moment, Murray’s depiction of Zuma’s cock & balls is far more crude than Ayanda Mabulu’s modest display of both Zuma’s and Tutu’s meat and 2 veg.

    Zuma’s little wanger is hidden by a crutch, and Tutu’s is covered by a cloth. So nothing too crazy to mention really. Additional to that, there’s a lot more more going on in the composition, which sways attention away from the slight bit of nudity on display.
    So all in all, nothing really sensationalist going on in the painting – so therefore, not much of a reaction.

    Brett Murray’s, on the other hand – is far more sensational, and it’s meaning – far more reaching to the International ‘clientele’.
    The centre piece is pretty much a big swollen red mass of sexual organs, displaying as confidently and as defiantly as Zuma himself.

    Zuma’s prick is standing in isolation, just like his view on Aid’s. It also looks red raw from over use – perhaps after shagging all of his wives and girlfriends???!!! Maybe he’s yet to wash his prick after raping the girl who was HIV positive??? It’s Art – so open to interpretation by lesser mortals such as myself…

    So as with many things in South Africa, there’s a clash of ‘Old World’ VS ‘New World’.
    Hence the reaction from the ANC being so virulent. And many people being disgusted by it.
    Feel free to voice your disgust – but there’s a lot more Artistic filth out there, than just some ‘Dicktatorial’ President with his cock out.

    Both Artists can also be afforded by the ‘Upper Middle Class’. They not Picasso’s, selling for Million’s, so I don’t think there’s some secret exclusive underground Network keeping Mabulu’s work down, and Murray’s up either.
    It’s all down to saleability – and to me (without bias), I think Murray’s work is more commercial in a wider sense (that extends beyond the borders of South Africa).

    So this comparison could lead back to the Artist’s intention. Mabulu has a story to tell in his artwork, which is possibly only understood, in detail, by some South African’s. I think Mabulu is being more honest in his artwork – by depicting his own strong interpretation of a certain time & place.

    Murray’s is far more ‘Pop Art’ in it’s composition & technique. In your face (literally!) and instant in it’s message. He was also aware of the sensation it would create before he started it. So maybe this is a bit of shameless self promotion??? I don’t know. This can easily be knocked off as a poster to be adorned on every Student’s dorm room, just like Che Guevara! :D

    But self promotion aside, Murray know’s who is audience is. And he got the reaction he wanted / expected.
    And with all the press it’s received, would of got a good price if it wasn’t defaced by a couple of idiots.

    So now let’s bring Race into the equation.

    Would / will Ayanda Mabulu ever get as much exposure as Brett Murray?
    Well – everyone needs a lucky break – and for every successful Artist, there’s 1000 failed Artist’s.
    So good on both of them for making it this far!

    If it wasn’t for some rich Investor giving Damien Hirst a couple of hundred thousand £ to get started, he could be tossing burgers in MacDonalds for all we know. Some rich (white) Art Collector by the name of Charles Saatchi saw the £££ signs with Damien Hirst, and although most of his work is utter pretentious SHIT, it sells for millions to stupid white folk with more money than sense, and absolutely no good taste.

    So if you want to be a commercial success, you’ve got to treat your art as a commercial enterprise (as covertly as possible usually!!!) You’ve got to appeal to your market – which Murray does.
    And this usually leads to ‘selling out’.

    Ayanda Mabulu shows a deep honesty and intimacy in his paintings. Some of his work is beautiful – but maybe not that relevant to Art Lovers with money as an ‘investment’.

    So I wouldn’t just blame the Galleries. They’ve got to survive and the only way they can do that is by selling Art. Some of the blame should be pushed onto the ignorant Art Buyers, who make lazy decisions which are predominantly based on how much the work will increase in value over time, rather than the love and appreciation of the piece.

    Ayanda Mabulu is also far more ‘African-centric’ than Brett Murray – so his market is narrowed as a result.
    I for one, am not interested in Native Indian American artwork, so will an American with a big wallet be interested in Ayanda Mabulu’s work? Possibly not.
    But with the emerging Upper middle classes of South African Black folk rising – so could the demand of Ayanda Mabulu’s work rise.

    So from my armchair, I don’t see this as a Race issue. It’s about the subject matter and the relevance to your ‘commercial audience’.

    And I’m sure that if Ayanda Mabulu created Brett Murray’s ‘Zuma Cock’ painting, he would be hailed as the South African Shephard Fairey by the International Art Community, and would be rolling in money by now.

    However, Ayanda Mabulu is too honest and seems like a ‘good guy’. And most of us know that in life, ‘Good guys’ finish last.

    Love and peace to all :)

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