Ayanda Mabulu a few days ago unveiled his latest “art” again the work of a deranged if not depraved mind. Mabulu has determined himself the voice of graphic artistic protest. Protest is acceptable in every democracy and having a public opinion is the franchised right of all citizens in a democratic society. Mabulu’s voice and opinion therefore cannot be denied. However rights do not function in a vacuum, particularly since it confirms an equal others.
Ayanda takes the liberty to paint and display his displeasure in the leadership of a South African president on several occasions. A right everyone has, and should not be denied. He however with his form of art claims that right at the expense of others. Others he denied the right to dignity and the same rights he claims for himself.
Mabulu’s form of art as captured in public display aggregates the adopted nudity theme, perhaps not a strange phenomenon in art, yet his art also adopts rape as a willing sojourner. He thus has shown no regard or any semblance of respect for those whom he perpetually annihilates; the same he takes issue with.
His most recent art depicts the president holding a chain around a woman’s neck. It now follows a tradition since 2012, when he portrayed the president wearing traditional Zulu regalia with his right leg raised and his genitals exposed. This latest venture follows his April 2017 when he painted Zuma as raping former president Nelson Mandela. It stands in the same tradition of his July 2016 depiction when he painted after Zuma engaging in a sexual act with one of the Gupta brothers.
This recent depiction of the president as is now usual adopts the sexually explicit themes of nudity with rape as the anchor tenant. In a sense some will argue Mabulu is merely sharing with us what we refuse to acknowledge. We may assume that he has a unique obsession for sexually explicit content, which he frames around our politics. His art furthermore depicts a grave violent component. With his paintbrush he arrogates a right in superlative to violate the rights of other, those he takes aim at. His form of art is not just mere protest art. His claim of his democratic right to paint whatever he so chooses equally cannot be made sacrosanct to deny others their equal humanity.
The vocal religious fraternities have not voiced their disdain with this form of art for the demeaning and emaciating.
SANEF’s secretary general Reggy Moalusi, reiterated the organisation respects the artist’s right to freedom of expression. The response on the part of SANEF known for its ambivalence of morality claims is not surprising. We may assume that he has a unique obsession to be graphic in nudity. His art furthermore depicts a grave violent component. With his paintbrush he violates the rights of other, those he takes aim at. His form of art is not just mere protest art, his claim of his democratic right to paint whatever he so chooses equally cannot be made sacrosanct to deny others their equal humanity.
Mabulu’s work affords us opportunity to ask why is this tolerated in our society? Is it possible that today in our society we have reached a place in our daily discourse where anything you say and do that is bad against the president is acceptable? Have we chosen to accept that the office is not sacrosanct only because the current president for some of us flawed to the core? It is possible that have justified the destruction of the office because our disdain for the incumbent affords us that?
Can we continue to hide behind picket fences of a one-dimensional constitutional right claim that affords us to debase others?
Mabulu in typical male chauvinist arrogance in this instalment with is paintbrush rapes Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in denying her a human agency, her identity, and her being. He spits on her identity of being a mother and a ‘Goggo’ (Grandmother). He accords himself the right to subjugate her as a stooge of Jacob Zuma. With his so-called art he tells his followers NDZ is ignorant and bows to a man. This is a common narrative bandied around by those who are intimidated by her rightful candidacy, those who cannot stomach her audacity to dare to lead in a this male dominant world, and those who have nothing to critique her on. Mabulu takes comfort with his usual rape theme to expose his own indolent victimhood of being captured in his maleness. Mabulu rapes our values of nationhood and spits on our collective morality.
At another level, women are still not free in South Africa, and they are best understood as objects. Mabulu continues that narrative when he celebrates that objectification with this depiction. Mabulu therefore continues this objectifying of women, a direct insult to an equal created status of male and female. He continues the long night of female slavery and subjected to a male.
A third possible reason for Mabulu’s work could be much closer and personal for the artist. We not sure if the artist is wrestling with his own demons. Is he possibly a victim of rape? Has he hitherto lacked the courage of his convictions to share with others in aim of receiving assistance? If its true that that Mabulu is a victim of rape and violation like so many others we warrant asking what can be done to assist him. His art therefore may be a literal cry for help.
His art is offensive derogatory, intrusive and insulting. For now Mabulu remains in my assessment a haunted soul, deranged and possibly fighting his own demons.
Clyde N.S Ramalaine