Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Zuma 'genitals' painting defaced

A controversial portrait of South African President Jacob Zuma painted by Brett Murray stands defaced at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg (AP)

A controversial painting that draws attention to South African president Jacob Zuma's genitals and his reputation for promiscuity has been defaced.

Two men wielding cans of red and black paint entered a Johannesburg gallery on Tuesday and obscured sections of the picture.

A local TV channel showed footage of a man in a suit painting a red X over the president's genital area and then his face. Next a man in a hoodie used his hands to rub black paint over Mr Zuma's face and down the painting.

The painting by Brett Murray, entitled The Spear, has been on display since early this month, but made the news last week when it came to the attention of South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) party.

Iman Rappetti, a reporter for a South African TV channel who was in the Goodman Gallery when the men struck, said: "Now it's completely and utterly destroyed."

Ms Rappetti said she initially thought the first man was part of a performance art piece, and that staff at the well-known gallery were slow to react. She added that the men were detained by gallery staff and police arrived later to take them away.

The Goodman, which had said in a statement on Monday that it was stepping up security, refused to comment and closed the gallery as reporters and passers-by gathered outside its gate.

Earlier on Tuesday in a Johannesburg courtroom a few miles from the gallery, a judge said that in an unusual move a full bench of the High Court would hear the ANC and Mr Zuma's challenge to the gallery's right to display the painting.

Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane had been expected to begin hearing the case against the painting on Tuesday. Instead, citing its national interest and the constitutional issues at stake, she said the case would start on Thursday.

Ms Kathree-Setiloane and two other High Court judges, among the most senior in South Africa, will hear the case. Nearly 100 pro-Zuma protesters were outside the court.

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