The ANC called the painting "distasteful and indecent"
JOHANNESBURG — A portrait of President Jacob Zuma posing as Lenin with his genitals hanging out has sparked outrage in South Africa, but the gallery on Friday refused demands from the ruling ANC to take it down.
Zuma's African National Congress has demanded that the private gallery in Johannesburg withdraw the "distasteful and vulgar" portrait by satirical artist Brett Murray.
But the gallery won't budge.
"They (the ANC) feel its so-called depiction of our president has been defamation towards his character. Our lawyers have written back to them saying we will not remove the painting," Goodman Gallery spokeswoman Lara Koseff told AFP.
The red-yellow and black painting entitled "The Spear" depicts Zuma mimicking a pose by Vladimir Lenin in a Soviet era propaganda poster, but with his penis exposed.
The polygamous president generated national debate when he married his fourth current wife last month. He has 21 children, including several out of wedlock.
Zuma's office on Friday said it was "shocked and disgusted at the grotesque" piece of art.
"We are amazed at the crude and offensive manner in which this artist denigrates the person and the office of the president of the Republic of South Africa," Zuma's office said in a statement.
It said Zuma was an architect of the freedom of expression enshrined in the country's laws but that such rights were "not absolute."
"Nobody has the right to violate the dignity and rights of others while exercising their own," the statement added.
The ANC also said it was "extremely disturbed and outraged by the distasteful and indecent manner in which Brett Murray and the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg is displaying the person of comrade President Jacob Zuma".
It vowed to go to the courts for an order to censor the painting.
But constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said the ANC had slim chances of a court victory.
"Given the protection for artistic freedom in the constitution and the many exceptions in our law made for the expression of such artistic creativity, I am am almost 100 percent certain that the ANC's proposed legal action will not be successful.
"In a democracy, courts seldom order the censoring of a work of art -- even if that work of art makes fun of the president and his philandering patriarchal ways," he said
Koseff said the collection running under the title "Hail to the thief" was "a very satirical look at contemporary South African politics... of the disillusion of democracy within the country".
Murray did not answer repeated calls to his phone.
The painting was bought by a German private collector for 136,000 rands (about $16,000) a day before the exhibition opened.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, an ANC ally, said it was "disgusted at the demeaning portrait".
"This picture is offensive and disrespectful not only to an individual but to the democratically elected president of South Africa and therefore to the whole country and the people of South Africa," complained the fiery labour movement.
A promotional flyer described Murray's collection as "acerbic attacks on abuses of power, corruption and political dumbness" and "attempts to humorously expose the paucity of morals and greed within the ruling elite."
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