The patriarchy and art of rape culture in response to South Africa’s escalating political crisis

Zapiro’s constant  depiction of the gang rape of a black woman to make a political statement is dehumanising, writes WENDY MOTHATA

We are living in a world where everyone has an opinion and some people are more blatant about their opinions than others. A country which is packed with systematic challenges including poverty, racism, homophobia, gender violence and etc. However, the ever-increasing political crisis, predominantly under the current leadership of President Jacob Zuma and the ANC, has turned everyone into an opinionist.

From Zupta to #ZumaMustFall, #AntiZumaMarches and everything that happened in between, these things gave people something to talk about. Of course, artists and cartoonist are also finding their way in, using their craft to express how they feel about the status quo in South Africa.

Recently, artist Ayanda Mabulu and cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, have been the talk of the country about their work which portray the President and the current political crisis in South Africa. Both tend to use sexual metaphors in images to convey their messages. In as much as many can argue that, they have the right to freedom of expression, still inside me coiled deep was the need to know; does this art perpetuate rape culture and patriarchy in our country or rather was freedom of expression a freedom to insult?

Many may agree that there is a clear art protest against Zuma, who has faced many calls to step down from all corners of the world. Controversial Cartoonist Zapiro is also painting a picture that symbolises that he wants some form of change.  

We are living in a country where sexual violence in our society is a norm, where women blame themselves for being victims of rape. A society that tells women not to get raped rather than telling men to stop raping women. However, one needs to understand that rape is about power, not sex. The rape metaphor in Zapiro’s paintings constantly depicts women in positions of weakness and de-humanising manner. He uses women as ‘objects’ to make a point.

Well, the power of paintbrushes and images by Zapiro convey a very deep message, which penetrates deeper than the double-edged sword, where more women in South Africa have a horrific experience of the matter. He portrays rape, particularly gang rape.

In his 2008 painting, the first one, Zapiro’s depicts Zuma preparing to rape “Lady Justice”. Nearly a decade after he first used it, Zapiro has once again used the image of a black woman being ganged raped. The painting depicts Zuma zipping up his trousers as one of the Gupta brothers gets ready to ”rape” South Africa.

In an interview with News24, Zapiro said the drawing itself was a metaphor that applies to all South Africans. “Everything I was trying to say about Jacob Zuma, and the way that he operates, the way he became President by riding roughshod over the justice system, has come true.”

Mabulu’s latest piece has sparked massive debate on social media. This time the artist could be saying that Zuma is literally “f**king” the late Nelson Mandela’s legacy. Zuma can be seen giggling and also in the drawing there is an ANC logo.

Mabulu’s other painting was on display at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. In this latest painting that has also sparked controversy Zuma, is seen engaging in a lewd act with one of the Gupta brothers and the late icon Madiba.  

In defence of his political commentary, controversial artist, Mabulu, told EWN that there is nothing disrespectful about his latest painting which has been described as crude, disrespectful and lacking creativity.

“The message in the painting is simple and clear: the country and everything we fought for before ’94 and post ’94, is constantly and continuously being raped by this rapist president of ours.” Mabulu said.

Mothata is a student

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