Ayanda Mabulu satirises Madiba in ‘offensive’ craft work

Ayanda Mabulu's artwork of Madiba was described as offensive.
Ayanda Mabulu's artwork of Madiba was described as offensive.
Image: ALON SKUY

Controversial visual artist Ayanda Mabulu has once again caused a stir at this year's FNB Art Fair. His work was removed because it was deemed offensive.

His latest work, with a Nazi swastika image super-imposed on Nelson Mandela's picture, has left a bitter taste in the mouths of art lovers who asked for it to be taken down.

The FNB Art Fair started on Thursday and ended on Sunday at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

According to FNB Art Fair organisers, Mabulu came to the fair and took out a Nazi flag as if he was doing performance art. He hung it at Kalashnikovv Gallery, a gallery that represents him at the fair.

In a dramatic situation, the flag was hung and taken down twice on Saturday.

Mandla Sibeko, director of the FNB Joburg Art Fair, said: "While the FNB Joburg Art Fair encourages freedom of expression, Artlogic can confirm that the ambush performance was not part of the scheduled programme of events."

The Kalashnikovv Gallery co-owner MJ Turpin confirmed that Mabulu's work was removed because it was regarded as insensitive.

Turpin told Sowetan that since they represent Mabulu, they never anticipate what to expect from him. "Ayanda will just drop the stuff exactly when the exhibition happens. He does not speak about what he is busy with. But he is the right person to explain his works."

When Sowetan's sister publication TimesLive spoke to Mabulu in June about the same Nazi flag with Madiba, he said: "Metaphors, proverbs and all this nice Shakespearean language tell you f**k all.

"Whiteness is the pure form of violence and these Nazis with black skins, like Mandela, who looked like us, talked like us and walked among us, left us unseeing, left us as zombies and black dust."

Several attempts to reach Mabulu on Sunday were unsuccessful .

Director of communications and outreach at the Nelson Mandela Foundation Luzuko Koti said: "Over many decades and across territories and jurisdictions, artists have depicted and referenced Nelson Mandela in their work.

"The Nelson Mandela Foundation has no expertise in the arts, and accepts that freedom of expression gives artists a creative licence which at times will result in work which is more or less disturbing. But there are limits.

"The work by Ayanda Mabulu, which briefly was put on public display without due authorisation at the Joburg Art Fair today, in our view goes beyond reasonable limit. We find it deeply offensive."

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