Artist defends Mandela anatomy painting

Cape Town: The Mail and Guardian has defended itself and the artist behind a painting depicting an autopsy of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

The African National Congress (ANC), however, condemned the painting, calling it racist and an act of "witchcraft".

"In African society it is a foreign act of ubuthakathi (witchcraft) to kill a living person and this so-called work of art which is (sic) also racist," News24 quoted the ANC as saying in a statement.

It said depicting a naked Nelson Mandela was an insult to Mandela`s dignity.

"Why would anyone dream of a dead Madiba?" it said.

The party also questioned the integrity of the media that have run with the story, accusing the Mail and Guardian in particular of "gutter journalism and soulless sensationalism which knows no limit and will exploit anything to increase its bottom line".

But Mail and Guardian deputy editor Rapule Tabane argued that Damasco was grappling with the state of the country`s current politics, and the meaning of Mandela in that context.

"You might say that it asks the question `what killed the special spirit that Madiba brought to our national life?`," he wrote in an SMS to SAPA.

"It should not be seen as a reflection on or anticipation of the literal death of Madiba as a person, but as an enquiry into the state of the nation and its iconography. That is the kind of work artists do all the time. We draw no conclusions as to whether this painting is good art or not, but we believed there was a story to report, and that to do so without reproducing the image made no sense under the circumstances," he added.

On his website Damaso explained that the painting shows that Mandela "is just a man, the same as those viewing him, the same as you and I Mr Mandela made decisions in his life that enabled people to see him as they do. The collection of viewers (is) in a position in their lives to make decisions that will enable people to see them in a similar manner".

He told News24 he believed the controversy caused by the painting based on Rembrandt`s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp was because people "struggle to accept the death of Nelson Mandela".



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