South African women protest against Zuma ‘sex act’ painting
Several hundred members of African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) rallied outside the Union Buildings, the official seat of the government, where huge student protests were held last week.
The emergence of a nationwide student protest movement has shaken Zuma’s government amid dire economic data, high unemployment and growing mistrust of the ANC two decades after the end of apartheid.
The ANC Women’s League held its march to demonstrate its loyalty to Zuma, 73, who was recently depicted in the graphic painting by a local artist Ayanda Mabulu.
“The painting denigrates the president, not just him, but women as well, given how a woman is portrayed,” Toko Xasa, ANCWL spokeswoman, told AFP.
“We can’t allow that to happen.”
An ANCWL statement before the march attacked “the portrayal of the President’s genitals in the mouth of a woman,” and said the event would celebrate Zuma’s role in transforming the country since apartheid.
“We, therefore, stand firm in saying ‘hands off President Zuma’ as the leader of the (ANC) organisation and father of the nation,” it said.
Entitled “The Pornography of Power”, the brightly coloured painting depicts Zuma in a sex act surrounded by symbols and characters that the artist said represent rape, colonialism, slavery and exploitation.
Mabulu, the artist, defended his work and said that the protest was misguided.
“These women are protecting and defending someone who is raping the country,” he told AFP. “They should be protesting to protect the victims.”
Outrage over the painting, which first featured in the local media two weeks ago, echoed a similar dispute in 2012 over “The Spear”, a painting that showed Zuma with exposed genitals.
That image triggered fury from the ANC, which described it as “indecent, racist, disrespectful and an abuse of freedom of expression”.
The painting, by Brett Murray, was the subject of court cases and was vandalised at a Johannesburg gallery.