Arterial Network South Africa notes with some concern reports about the withdrawal of a work of art from an exhibition in Nelspruit. The art work, a painting depicting President Jacob Zuma and former president Nelson Mandela as whites created by Kobus Myburgh, was in an exhibition scheduled to open at the Van Riebeeck Hall on Monday, as part of the local municipality’s celebration of World Art Day.
While the reason for its removal is not clear, and while the merits of the specific artwork are not known or under consideration here, we as an arts and civil society role player, believe there is cause for concern.
This incident occurs against a backdrop of a growing list of incidents in which political figures and officials have acted to restrict or censor the freedom of expression of artists in South Africa.
We are concerned that a precedent is being created where political role players and government officials feel entitled to obstruct or prevent artists – in whatever field – from presenting, distributing or selling work that may be at odds with particular positions of the state or the ruling party. The gradual accumulation of such incidents encourages the perception that politicians and officials can interfere with artists’ rights regardless of the protections enshrined in the Constitution. While it may be considered important that we build social consensus and respect the sensitivities of all persons and institutions, it is in our view more important that constitutional freedoms be protected from political and other pressures. We call on the relevant authorities to take measures to ensure that a municipal councillor did not compromise the artist’s constitutional freedoms in the course of this action and to take corrective action if indeed it was the case.
Issued on behalf of Arterial Network South Africa.
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Source: ARTerial network website: http://www.arterialnetwork.org