South African court hears case on ′vulgar′ Zuma painting | News | DW | 24.05.2012
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South African court hears case on 'vulgar' Zuma painting

A court in South Africa is deliberating whether a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma should be removed from public display.

The painting, called "The Spear," was recently unveiled in a Johannesburg art gallery. It features Zuma in a pose that mimics Soviet-era posters of Vladimir Lenin, with the notable exception that President Jacob Zuma's genitals are exposed.

Lawyers for Zuma's party, the African National Congress (ANC), presented the case to the court in Johannesburg, saying the "vulgar" painting symbolizes the lingering racism of apartheid. Zuma brought the case to the court because he claims the painting violates his right to dignity.

One of the ANC's lawyers, Gcina Malindi, broke down in tears while presenting the case on behalf of Zuma after telling judges that many blacks in South Africa still lived in poverty 18 years after the end of apartheid.

After Malindi began crying, the judge temporarily adjourned the hearing.

How to enforce a ban?

Judges had asked the ANC lawyers how, if they decided to remove the piece from public display, the order would be enforced since the image is widely available online. They also questioned whether there was actually a racial element to the painting, and why the right to freedom of expression should not take precedence in this case.

The case is continuing despite the fact that "The Spear" was removed from the gallery it was being displayed in after it was vandalized earlier this week. Two men covered Zuma's face and genitals with paint while the life-size painting was hanging in the gallery.

The painting was on display as part of a larger exhibition called "Hail to the Thief II" by Brett Murray. He has depicted male genitals in his work in the past.

mz/pfd (dpa, AP, Reuters)