Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dead president

The ANC has expressed its outrage over a painting by Yiull Damaso, depicting Nelson Mandela on the autopsy slab. According to spokesman Jackson Mthembu, the image, based on Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson, is reprehensible on a number of counts:
It is in bad taste, disrespectful, and it is an insult and an affront to values of our society... In African society it is a foreign act of ubuthakathi (bewitch) to kill a living person and this so-called work of art … is also racist. It goes further by violating Tat’ uMandela’s dignity by stripping him naked in the glare of curious onlookers, some of whom have seen their apartheid ideals die before them.
It’s not clear exactly how the painting is racist, especially since its depiction of non-white people in positions of authority significantly improves on Rembrandt’s original. But the allegation of ubuthakathi does raise one tricky question: will the painting suddenly become less problematic when Mandela does actually die? Moreover, Mr Mthembu’s vitriol leaves another matter unaddressed: as is so often the case with supposedly shocking works of art (see the Danish Mohammed cartoons), the picture is really a bit rubbish. The dead Mandela looks more like Morgan Freeman.


Christopher said...

Wasn't there some mystery in Rembrandt's original about the anatomee having one hand the wrong way round, or having one finger too many? Maybe this will be found to be the case when Mandela dies, despite being perfectly formed in life. Then there'll be fun and games.

Rog said...

If Dan Brown reads Christopher's comment there'll be another blockbuster on the stalls by Christmas.

Shocking and Rubbish are often found in the same bed. From Bill Haley to the Sex Pistols.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. And he's not even naked anyway.
I suppose that rule about killing a living person in art rules out burning effigies too then? Not, I hasten to add, that Nelson Mandela would be top of my list. Or even on it at all.

Tim Footman said...

That rings a bell, Christopher, although I thought it was something about the exposed muscles. Maybe they’ll discover that Mandela was Jewish?

Dodgy goings on in the Dutch Reformed Church, Rog? I like it...

Yes, I thought the naked thing was unfair as well, BWT. The artist was showing great respect, giving him such clean underwear.

Donn said...

Methinks tis all much ado aboot nothing?