In case you missed it, last week a South African artist by the name of Brett Murray exhibited a painting of Jacob Zuma with his scholng hanging out. This has caused a massive outcry in certain circles and there’s now a controversy as to whether or not the artist had a right to use Zuma’s likeness.
On principal I’m inclined to support Brett’s right to use art as a means of political protest, even if I think the painting is in poor taste, but a lot of people are up in arms about the invasion of Zuma’s privacy… I have a couple issues with that.
First off, Zuma is a public person. As president of our country he is in the public domain and must submit himself to criticism, commentary and satire: that’s just the way that a free media operates. Now, you could argue that his wedding tackle is not part of his public profile but if you look at everything he’s been up to while in the presidency (and before) then it’s not a big stretch (ah-ha) to see where the artist is coming from.
Additionally, if Zuma is really personally mortified by this painting and wants to have it removed then it is his right as a private citizen to request that. Note that I said “his right as a PRIVATE CITIZEN” – this is an important distinction, because he chose to lodge his complaint through his position as president of the ANC. In my opinion, the position of President of the ANC is a public position and so open to satire of this nature. You can’t have it both ways, JC: Either you’re a public personality that is backed by the ANC and open to satire or you’re a private citizen without political powers and a right to privacy.
This sort of situation is precisely why politicians in the first world resign at the first hint of controversy. They do that to avoid further embarrassment to themselves and their political party. With all the shenanigans that Zuma has been through in his political career, can anyone really say that they didn’t see this coming? Really?
“The first 20 stories written about a public figure set the tone for the next 2000 and it’s almost impossible to reverse it.” –Charles W. Colson