A controversial painting depicting South African president, Jacob Zuma, with his genitals exposed was vandalized by two men in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The painting, called “The Spear,” has been the subject of a bitter debate. The ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has asked the High Court to having the painting removed, calling it “rude, disrespectful and racist.”  Others, however, argue that Brett Murray, the painter, has the right to express himself. Murray’s work is known for its political tone and provocative nature, and Zuma has been a controversial figure for years.

The painting was defaced by two men, one black, one white, but according to the BBC’s Andrew Harding, the young black man was treated more harshly by police.

Harding tweeted:

“Zuma picture smeared with black paint. Man who did it tells me ‘picture was offensive.’ gallery guard assaults him. 2nd man arrested too.”

He continued: “Red and black paint now covers Zuma portrait. Two men responsible now taken away. Gallery closed.”

“Young black man was beaten by guards. Older white man treated much more courteously.”

Amid the contentious debate about the painting, Murray said his piece wasn’t meant to harm anyone, but was an “attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy within the context of other artworks in the exhibition and within the broader context of South African discourse.”

But many in South Africa felt Murray’s painting was racist and he deserves to be punished. Enoch Mthembu, spokesman for the Nazareth Baptist church, told the Times of South Africa:

“This man has insulted the entire nation and he deserves to be stoned to death,” he told the Times of South Africa. “What he did clearly shows his racist upbringing because art does not allow people to insult others.

“This is an attack on the culture of the majority, the black people of South Africa. With our culture we are allowed to marry many women. And white people must understand that and tolerate our culture as we do theirs. We are not like some of them who prefer prostitutes as they regard women as sex objects.”

What do you think about the painting? Is it offensive or just art?

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  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Looking at it with a non critical eye, it’s just art. There seems to be some underlying racial intonations as per the comments made, but I really don’t know. Is there a South African in the house, who can shed light on this artist……thanks!

    I wouldn’t buy it, because being that Zuma is a president. His wee wee hanging off in my living room would be quite distasteful given his stature in society. No thanks.

  • BFDuster

    The painting is actually kind of awesome and doesn’t deserve to be censored nor the artist stoned to death. In my opinion, that’s how you shut down discussion and doing that, doesn’t leave room for self-examination.

    “This is an attack on the culture of the majority, the black people of South Africa. With our culture we are allowed to marry many women. And white people must understand that and tolerate our culture as we do theirs. We are not like some of them who prefer prostitutes as they regard women as sex objects.”

    …. um yeah so I can hear from actual African women from each and every country in Africa? I’m sure their opinions will differ from each other on the subject, but at least I know I’ll be listening to what they think.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/clnmike Tonton Michel

    The artist should be allowed to express himself if for no other reason but to identify him and allow a legal outlet for his beliefs. But you reap what you sow and he should be very aware of that. On another note not surprised that the black man got the blunt of security’s wrath for this.

  • AustralianGirl

    Jacob Zuma has several wives, but STILL sleeps/slept around…. so the painting is ACCURATE.

    • TypicalBlackWoman…

      I have no respect for Zuma. Sleeps with his friend’s daughter – or rather rapes her. Then, get this, the president of South Africa no less, says he protected himself from HIV/AIDS by taking a shower. What a royal douchebag….

  • Dalili

    Zuma’s past indiscretions and multiple marriages considered, I still think this painting is in very poor taste. Expression of one’s belief through art is one thing, but doing it at the expense of someone else’s dignity (and in this case a head of state) crosses all manner of decency and common courtesy decorum. I understand art is meant to be provocative (no pun intended) with intentional or unintentional subliminal messages, but honestly when I look at this all is see is a man with his penis hanging out and the president of the Republic of South Africa at that; not cool at all!

    • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

      Thank you my sister!!!!!! His genitalia being exposed is very disrespectful.

    • TypicalBlackWoman…

      We do realize that “past indiscretions” includes alleged rape…that seems more disrespectful. President or not, this man belongs in the league of men who think with their genitals. Therefore, the picture is appropriate. I think we Africans have an unflinching sense of loyalty to our leaders (presidents, governors, pastors etc), which at times is undeserved. Time after time our leaders present to us the idea that we either choose them and so-called African traditions or the West….and we fall for it every time.

    • Dalili

      @TypicalBlackWoman…: I am in no way condoning Mr. Zuma’s actions, not in the least; and for the record I believed Ms. Fezeka Kuzwayo’s account. To me the piece was offensive and tasteless as was the one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It has nothing to do with misplaced loyalty to African leaders or archaic traditions but more with respecting the office of the president, after all South Africans elected him as their leader despite the rape charge and acquittal.

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