'Naked Zuma has lost its potency'

"People were shocked the first time because it went against their social norm, so when you see it again it can't have the same effect"

The reaction to a new painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed has been banal, but in an interesting way, says political analyst Eusebius McKaiser.

“It’s quite a beautiful thing — nudity has lost its political potency,” McKaiser said.

“In other words, people were shocked the first time because it went against their social norm, so when you see it again it can’t have the same effect.” 

McKaiser used the example of seeing a dead body for the first time.   It can be quite traumatic and a person might even need to get counselling, but when they see a dead body for a second time it is less shocking.

“It’s good for art that it lost political potency, because artists don’t have to be afraid,” McKaiser said.

Artist Ayanda Mabulu’s painting of Zuma wearing traditional attire and his penis exposed, entitled “Umshini Wam” [weapon of mass destruction] was part of an exhibition — “Our Fathers”.

The painting went on display at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town on Monday night.

The exhibition also has works of Brett Murray, whose controversial painting, “The Spear”, resulted in protests at Johannesburg’s Goodman Gallery in May.  

“The Spear”, which also depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed, was vandalised and removed from display by the Goodman Gallery.

Mabulu’s painting has received a more low key response.

McKaiser said another reason for this was because focus in terms of the news cycle was on the shooting at the Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana.

“There is a bigger conversation going on about inequalities, labour relations, and violence. [This was] so incredibly larger that anyone who spent their political energy on this would look irrelevant,” he said.

Many took to social networking site Twitter calling Mabulu an “attention seeker”.

Yet the question was asked why when Murray painted Zuma with his genitals exposed he was called a racist but Mabulu was called an attention seeker.

McKaiser said this could easily be explained.

“South Africans think, and wrongly so, that you can’t be racist to people who look the same as you. I think everyone can be a racist, whether you are black or white, and can be racist to the same group,” he said.

- Sapa

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