n Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Editorial

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-582X



By now, all South African readers of this journal - and most international readers too - have heard of (and probably had enough of) the controversy surrounding "The Spear", the painting that got Brett Murray into trouble for ostensibly depicting President Jacob Zuma's genitals. Along with thousands of others, I weighed in on the debate; my contribution was to foreground how flawed assumptions about the operation of mimesis in works of art had resulted in a misunderstanding of the so-called 'portrait'. Most of my article addressed this problem, pointing to Murray's own previous invocation of René Magritte's 1928 painting, "" (The Treachery of Images), which famously includes the words "" (This is not a pipe) below a picture of a pipe. Thus, I suggested, "if Murray is simply using the penis as a metonym for a series of already-current critiques of the president" - given that sex and sexuality are central to many of those critiques - "Magritte's warning should hover over 'The Spear' like an invisible subtitle: This is not Zuma's pipe. It is not even a mimetic representation of Zuma's pipe. It's a provocative placement of a symbol." (Thurman 9)

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