The Commisar’s Art Critique: Zuma’s Spear

May 18, 12 The Commisar’s Art Critique: Zuma’s Spear

By now anyone in South Africa without their head in the ground will have read about the controversial Brett Murray painting hanging limply (yes, I made that joke) in the Goodman Gallery in Joburg:

We can all understand why the ANC would be angry about the piece. I mean, the proportions are clearly WAY out, and I’m sure painting the Presidential member is always going to be a stiff issue amongst the ruling party.. Regardless, we’re all missing the fundamental problem with Murray’s work here. Place on the berets now…

… The majority of the painting is a crude copy of Lenin’s infamous poster during the 1917 Revolution (the first image)


Now. If we ignore the main thrust of Murray’s painting and focus on the other bits of the painting, there is a comparison, whether intentional or nay, to Lenin. I don’t think anyone with a smidgen of political science rattling around in their heads would liken Zuma to Lenin. One was the grandfather of Soviet Communist ideology as we know it, united a people and a party, and was an architect for society numbering in the hundreds of millions, if not billions if we include China, and the other had a rape trial, married lots of women, divided his party and split the people along political battle lines. The comparison implied by Murray is quite simply horrid. Although I suppose there is an argument to be made that both were responsible for removing otherwise-indifferent heads of state by forceful politicking, but somehow I suspect during all the cock-and-balls painting Murray was not paying attention to that.

Forget taking it down because its audacity offends the ANC. Take it down because its ignorance offends history.

  • Annie

    Now I’m no art crit here but do you not think the Lenin analogy is intended to be ironic? like some sort of propaganda poster Zuma would make of himself, that he sees himself as Lenin-esque, all the while, like an emperor’s new clothes scenario, he’s all balls out macho-agony?

  • Maritzstudio

    Linda Stupid does it again!

  • Christopher

    I agree with Annie. The Lenin analogy is clearly ironic.

  • Dericmacaoidh

    Penis is rather flattering to Zuma may encourage a few to join his numerous wives

  • Chad R

    Lenin. Also the first man to properly envision institutionalised violence. Cheka, revolutionary terror, red terror, cicil war. Might not have had a rape trial, but distinctly and definitely divided his party and split his people along political battlelines.

  • John Stupart

    I’m also no art critic, but if it is clearly ironic, what then of the penis? I’m fairly sure the Presidential ‘representation’ must be quite close to proportions. Though I suppose Murray can be ironic and irreverent at the same time…

  • Vdmasutha

    now thats what we call disrespect.This is our president not a model

  • Milli

    Through history, male genitalia has been used either directly or in directly as a sign of power.  I think that is the main reason for it being there.  As for the disrespect, this is a democracy, and all are allowed a voice and opinion. 

  • Molema

    John Stupart your apparent ignorance of history offends me.

  • LoonyC

    i want to meet the artist… he knows his shit. we could come up with a nice collage…

    *thumbs up to Mr Murray*

  • Pratish Mistry

    For me, the quesion is where does one draw the line between satire, art and bad taste? (and if you can’t see the parallels between Zuma and Lenin in some form at least I think you need to learn more about Zuma’s role in the struggle and steer clear of the trash from the tabloids you’re basing your opinions on.

    In my opinion, Murray has crossed that line of bad taste here. The only benchmark I can think of using to make the judgement is whether would it be acceptable to see my ‘equipment’ publically displayed because of someone else’s opinion – for me, that answer is no.

    Zuma, for the philanderer that he may well be should be extended that courtesy too.

    On a lighter note, I think you’d enjoy Wonkie’s latest cartoon on the Spear topic – do check out: http://www.wonkie.com/2012/05/24/the-spear-of-jacob-zuma-photo/

  • Hloks

    This artist is very creative

  • Ziyanda Peter

    OH MY WORD!!!,LOL,THE WORLD IS ENDING SLOWLY.