May 21 2012
Ayanda Mabulu’s painting

Ayanda Mabulu’s painting

The controversial Brett Murray work depicting Zuma with his pants down, certainly got tongues wagging recently. And those in the know, remembered Cape Town artist Ayanda Mabulu’s painting titled Ngcono ihlwempu kunesibhanxo sesityebi (Better poor than a rich puppet).

The painting, (Oil on canvas, 150cm X 200cm in size) shown above, was one of six paintings by Mabulu that was exhibited end 2010 as part of a solo exhibition at Worldart.
The exhibition titled “Un-mute my tongue” depicted the desire of poor black South Africans to have their views heard and considered. The work featured political figures Jacob Zuma, Barack Obama, Robert Mugabe, PW Botha, Nelson Mandela, George Bush, Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Tutu seated around a table, much like in Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

All of the figures are hindered or compromised: Jacob Zuma’s penis is supported by a crutch. According to Mabulu, this is a metaphor for the perception that Zuma’s sexual escapades are out of control; the crutch implying he needs help to overcome the issue.
Mabulu also explained that Bishop Tutu’s tied up penis refers to a process during the Xhosa male initiation ritual where the penis is covered to speed up the removal of the foreskin. Traditionally a sign of strength and power in his culture, the penis here is portrayed as weakened, incapacitated and “colonised” by Western values – in pain just like during initiation.

Asked whether he intended to offend, Mabulu said that he was merely painting his perception of the roles that the state and the church play in a poverty stricken environment. He added that if it offended anyone, it was probably necessary for them to look at reasons why they felt this way. Asked whether painting a political and church leader naked was disrespectful, he said these figures are disrespectful of him and his people: they can’t expect respect if they don’t respect the people they lead.

A review of the exhibition together with an interview with Mabulu that appeared in the Cape Times can be read here (last one on the list): http://worldart.co.za/media

More paintings by Ayanda Mabulu can be seen at http://worldart.co.za/artists/artist.asp?ID=59

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