Art, Politics and South Africa

One of the most striking things about art in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Century has been its political voice. Dictators have been frightened of criticism through art. The Soviets imprisoned or exiled many writers. The Chinese communist party censors all forms of art. Hitler burnt many books. Movies like Cry Freedom did a lot to publicize the unfair plight of black South Africans during the apartheid era.

The thing about art is that it is not controlled by politicians. Moreover artists are always trying to challenge convention, tackle taboo subjects, satirize and speak out. Art cannot be successfully contained, especially art of real value.

It is debatable whether Brett Murray’s painting called The Spear falls into the category of great art, or ground breaking art. He has a certain post modern style and his execution is sound. Here is the picture:

 

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The picture is being shown at The Space on Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg. The important man with what looks like his penis hanging out like a gun holster is President Jacob Zuma. By the time you read this article the painting might have already been taken down and possibly destroyed. The ANC are furious that such an image of their leader could be hung publicly. They deem the painting ‘bad art’ and ‘ridicule disguised as art’.

I would like to see paintings like this of Tony Blair exposed. Perhaps standing next to George W.

To be serious again: it is interesting to note that the ANC after being outlawed and their supporters censored for so many years  immediately wish to forget such a history and seek to censor black local artists who are asking to be heard.

Africa is not always an easy place to live. There are tensions within society. Denying these tensions artistic expression will only make matters worse.

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