The Spear - A country incensed
On the 29th of May 2012, hundreds of demonstrators made their way to the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg. There, the African National Congress (ANC) handed over a memorandum, showing it’s anger at the controversial painting, ‘The Spear‘. The artwork, depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed, caused an outcry country-wide.
Sicelo Mashabane and his friends travelled from Nelspruit to Rosebank to show their support for President Jacob Zuma. “We want to show South Africans and the world that they mustn’t take our president for granted. You can’t draw a man and his genitals,” he said. Mashabane admits that he doesn’t demonstrate when alleged rapists or murderers appear in court. He says his priority is to protect the country’s number one citizen.
Alfred Tirelo Lepoi has an agenda with the media. He doesn’t understand why no firm action has been taken against Brett Murray, the artist who painted ‘The Spear’, when several columnists have lost their jobs after making controversial comments. He says he respects the ANC’s right to take a stand, adding that the country is a healing nation and people must understand that a lot of care must still be taken when making comments.
The regional organiser of the ANC Woman’s League in the greater Johannesburg region, Bontlefela Setsogwe says she wanted to demonstrate and physically remove the painting from the gallery. She believes self-expression is wonderful, but she’s angry that Murray chose to depict a black president in such a way. Setsogwe says former presidents HF Verwoerd, DF Malan and the likes were never disrespected in such a manner. “This is apartheid mentality. Away with it,” she shouts. Setsogwe firmly believes this is an issue of race and that black people’s respect for the constitution has been taken advantage of. She says the president has been humiliated and she’s unable to explain the meaning of the painting to her children.
Adil Ncabeleng appears calmer than his fellow protesters. He’s come to Rosebank to show his dissatisfaction at the way that black people are portrayed. Ncabeleng says the nation cannot allow such a level of disrespect against Zuma. “This is a man with a family and is a leader in our society and a nation, and that nation deserves to see him in a respectful manner and honour”, he says.