Jacob Zuma penis painting defaced by vandals

May 22, 2012

Portrait that has bitterly divided South Africa for portraying president's genitals is smeared with paint

Alexander Joe

A DIVISIVE portrait depicting South African President Jacob Zuma's penis has been vandalised by two men.

The painting, which shows Zuma posing as Lenin with his genitals exposed, has been the subject of heated debate in South Africa with one critic even calling for its artist to be stoned to death.

But even as the president made an urgent application against the work's exhibition to the High Court this morning, two men slipped into the gallery with tins of paint and defaced the portrait.

A gallery spokeswoman said there was "a lot of shouting and screaming and a bit of physical jostling" during the attack. A red 'X' was painted over Zuma's face and genitalia before the picture was smeared with black paint.

The BBC's Andrew Harding reported that one of the culprits was assaulted by guards as the two men were arrested. He tweeted: "Young black man was beaten by guards. Older white man treated much more courteously." He added that the pair had denounced the painting as "disrespectful".

Artist Brett Murray said earlier in the week that the painting, entitled The Spear, was never meant to hurt anyone but was an "attempt at humorous satire of political power and patriarchy" within the context of his other artworks and wider South African discourse.

But the 1.85-metre-high painting, rumoured to have been bought by a German collector for around £10,345, has bitterly divided opinion in South Africa, reports The Guardian. The court case has been postponed until Thursday as judges weigh up the artist's right to freedom of speech and the president's right to privacy.

Today several ANC supporters said they approved of the vandalism as they saw the painting as "rude, disrespectful and racist".

But others have come down on the side of free speech. Mondli Makhanya, a columnist in South Africa's Sunday Times, points out that Zuma has married six women and has more than 20 children. "This is a man who has made a virtue of flaunting his sexual prowess," he says. "His sexual endeavours are therefore fair game for artists, cartoonists, comedians, radio DJs and tavern jokers."

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"points out that Zuma has married six women and has more than 20 children.

They should've made it clear that he is married to them *at the same time*. He is a polygamist, iow.

This is not freedom of expression but bastardization of it. Neither is it 'humorous satire of any sort, but is the work of a sick mind.