Local Cape Town artist Ayanda Mabulu made headlines today when he released a painting of South African President Jacob Zuma raping former President and international civil rights icon Nelson Mandela. In the painting, we see a nude Zuma and Mandela having intercourse on a gold and red chair with the African National Congress’ logo as its backdrop. Mandela’s genitalia is seen to have blood, and he is crying as Zuma forces himself upon the former leader.
In an interview with a South African news site, Mabulu said, “It was highly upsetting for me to paint this thing. It was like bleeding through my nails.” As for what the painting is meant to represent, he explains: “The dreams of hope, everything Mandela and the people fought for were thrown into the rubbish by these people who did not care.” He feels that Mandela looks down from wherever he is and “sees his people being raped,” in Mabulu’s lexicon. He also feels that such a provocative piece of artwork is necessary to wake the average South African up to the current state of rights in the country. “Do we go there and create a nice beautiful artwork that is going to hang in Sandton? F**k that. We cannot metaphorise bulls**t here. It’s personal. It is f**kin’ personal right now.”
President Zuma has remained silent so far on the issue, while the Nelson Mandela Foundation gave a statement saying it respected Mr. Mabulu’s right to freedom of speech, although it still found the painting distasteful and understood the public offense at the piece of art. Indeed, social media reaction was for the most part denouncing the artist for drawing the current president and the national legend in such a crude manner. One tweeter wrote, “This Ayanda Mabulu painting is so disrespectful, what message was he tryna get across?? It’s sickening really wish I could unsee it.”