Friday, June 1, 2012

'The Spear': the politics of art and the art of politics


'In our communities, to refer to someone as a private part is … war,' declared Blade Nzimande, a piece of flagrant stirring relayed with every sign of sympathy by Stephen Grootes  (The Spear may yet lead to a process of healing, Business Day, May 29).

For heaven's sake! To refer to someone as a private part is a casus belli in any darn community! But the angry artist's intention was to rouse his fellow South Africans to anger, not to war. It is honourable to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Mr Murray's act of provocation has been stoked on the one side by tripartite alliance elements who stand to gain by causing a furore and on the other by a media equally well served by another round of 'public outrage'.

Who knows if the 'furore' reflects what the majority think about it. The majority appear more worried about where the next meal is coming from. What the newspapers love to call our 'leaders' often claim 'the people' are up in arms because, when it suits them, our leaders possess powerful means to make sure the people are.

The truth is there is no way of knowing, or showing, how this obscene painting is generally received. But we do know from recent polls that a large proportion of the black majority has its doubts about President Zuma and could well be as pleased at his discomfiture as his open enemies.

What is clear is Mr Zuma loses if he does not attack the painting and may still lose now he has ‘won’. 

Society is what it is. The main questions from the uproar are political. Has it helped the President's  chances of re-election or not? Has it done the ANC more harm than good?

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