oa Litnet Akademies : 'n Joernaal vir die Geesteswetenskappe, Natuurwetenskappe, Regte en Godsdienswetenskappe - Die spies van die nasie : die demokratiese rol van die populêre media en avant-garde kuns in Suid-Afrika : geesteswetenskappe

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1995-5928



Die openbare oproer en debat in Suid-Afrika oor Brett Murray se -kunswerk in 2012 het verskeie vraagstukke na vore gebring. Hiervan is een aspek, die verwikkelde rol van kuns en die media in die daarstelling van 'n openbare sfeer in 'n demokratiese samelewing, moontlik nog onderbeklemtoon. Eerstens bespreek en evalueer hierdie artikel teoretiese insigte van Levine (2007) en Bourdieu (1993) oor die verhouding tussen sogenaamde avant-garde kuns en die populêre media. Vervolgens kom die eietydse rol van die populêre media en avant-garde kuns in 'n postkoloniale konteks na aanleiding van die -geval aan bod. Die artikel werp lig op die belangrike plek en rol van gemedieerde kuns en kultuur in 'n ontwikkelende demokrasie - of soos uitgedruk deur die boektitel van Levine (2007), effe aangepas (my toevoeging is tussen hakies): . Ten slotte word die argument gestel dat 'n inklusiewe en dinamiese openbare sfeer deur die vrye wisselwerking van avant-garde kuns en die populêre media versterk word. In teenstelling met die algemeen-aanvaarde openbare-sfeer-teorie, waarvolgens slegs rasionele debat wat tot konsensus lei die demokrasie versterk, volg die insig dus dat konflik en onvoorspelbare uitkomste net so belangrik is.

This article chronicles and critically analyses a controversial public incident involving the interplay between members of the so-called elitist arts fraternity, the popular media, and the political establishment and grassroots supporters in South Africa. A public debate and political furore was sparked in 2012 when a Johannesburg exhibition by prominent (white) artist Brett Murray caught the attention of members of the ruling ANC party. A popular (black) Sunday newspaper, , first reported that one of Murray's paintings, , depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed. Zuma is a controversial Zulu traditionalist and polygamist who was acquitted of raping a family friend in 2009. The painting represented the exposed Zuma in the pose of Soviet dictator Lenin, and seemingly expressed satirical comment on the state of the South African nation and the ANC under his leadership.
A reproduction of was displayed on the website of the , and the ANC threatened the newspaper and the Goodman art gallery with legal action if calls for the removal of the original work of art and all its reproductions in the media were ignored. The ANC stated that it viewed as an example of persistent white racists' attitudes to the culture and values of the black majority.
This turn of events made news headlines and reached social media platforms all around the globe and catapulted a relatively unknown artist and relatively obscure gallery to international fame and notoriety. After a tense stand-off between different parties and interest groups, during which the painting was vandalised and a crowd of Zuma supporters staged a protest march, the gallery owners removed from public display and the editor of apologised for publishing its image. To free speech advocates this represented a clear loss, and fears were expressed that the threats during Zuma's rule to media and artistic freedom in South African's hard-won constitutional democracy were gaining momentum. However, counter-arguments pointed to the fact that the incident led to a serious and necessary national debate about racial and cultural views and sensitivities in a postcolonial and post-apartheid society. For days on end a public debate raged on various traditional and new media platforms as all and sundry voiced an opinion.
This article steps back from the intricacies of particular viewpoints to provide an overarching perspective. This arguably helps to take the debate past arguments over the merits and morality of the art work on the one hand and the rights and values of those involved on the other. It argues that one aspect, the complicated role of avant-garde art and artists and the popular media in the establishment of a dynamic and inclusive public sphere in a democratic society, still remains underdeveloped even after extensive discussions. Therefore, the article deals firstly with theoretical insights of Levine (2007) and Bourdieu (1993) about the relationship between avant-garde art and the popular media.

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