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Zuma, Mandela rape painting stirs outrage in South Africa

Saturday April 22 2017

People walk on June 27, 2013 past a giant

People walk on June 27, 2013 past a giant picture of former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Cape Town Civic Centre. South Africans have criticised a controversial painting that depicts the country’s president Jacob Zuma having sex with anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

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A painting by a South African artist showing President Jacob Zuma raping the late Nelson Mandela has caused outrage in the country, with the ruling party Friday describing it as "grotesque".

The piece by controversial artist Ayanda Mabulu shows Zuma seated on a red chair, penetrating a crying Mandela.

Both men have their legs wide apart, exposing their genitals.

The African National Congress and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have condemned the colourful artwork titled: "The economy of rape".

"Whilst we respect Mabulu's freedom of expression, we find his work grotesque, inflammatory and of bad taste," the ANC said in a statement.


"We view his work as crossing the bounds of rationality to degradation, exploiting the craft of creative art for nefarious ends."

The party urged the people to ignore the painting.

Mabulu has previously done a number of controversial paintings showing Zuma's genitals, much to the public outrage.

The foundation of the late anti-apartheid icon also rejected the piece as "distasteful".

It said while it respects the artist's right to freedom of expression, it found the painting "distasteful".


The artist has defended his work saying it reflects the current state of affairs in the country under Zuma's leadership, who is accused of raping the democratic values of the country.

"The message in the painting is simple and clear: the country and everything we fought for before 1994 and post 1994, is constantly and continuously being raped by this rapist president of ours," he told a local radio station.

Zuma has in the past weeks come under intense criticism following his shock cabinet reshuffle last month which provoked a political and economic backlash.

He has resisted calls for him to resign, including a wave of protests by opposition parties last week.

The artwork also sent social media abuzz, with people expressing shock and dismay at the use of Mandela's image in a such a crude manner.

"Ayanda Mabulu is disrespecting our nation, what freedom of expression portrayed there, lesson must be taught," said @Nathi.

"Ayanda Mabulu is abusing his freedom of expression, he is using it in an immoral way. His art to has failed dismally." said @MarvinMahange.

Zuma is often the subject of artists and cartoonist paint brushes who usually depict him in a naked state.

In 2010, a painting by Cape Town-based artist Brett Murray depicting Zuma with exposed genitals was defaced and later removed from a Johannesburg gallery after sparking a huge outcry.