The Presidents’ Spear is missing


In Johannesburg – Arts and Culture is readily accessible, cinema costs about £3 for a good seat, a theatre ticket around £10.  For those living in England we are now enjoying the 56th day of pretty much uninterrupted sunshine in 60 days.

Just this last week I have been to see a comic Joey Rasdien at the wonderfully named Gandhi Hall on Impala Avenue in Linasia an Indian suburb.  The bronze statue located in the entrance hall managed to capture the delicate frame of  Gandhi well. This was Joey’s DNA tour in which he “examined” the origins of race and suggested some thoughts on how races would develop in the future.  In the UK there is now one unwritten rule on the mainstream UK comedy circuit.  You can poke fun at your own race and may be a little at a similar race.  So Jamaican comics might have fun at the expense of Bajans because it’s flat and boring in Barbados.

None of this seemed to apply to Joeys act.  The guy would have been unbookable in the UK and I did not quite get his DNA.  I was disappointed because the ability to laugh at yourself is hugely powerful and well aimed comedy can have an immensely healing effect.  It could be a powerful force for bringing races together rather than reinforcing old divisions.

Which takes me to Jacob Zumas Spear which has now officially gone missing and cannot be shown on this site for legal reasons.  The Goodman Gallery, a couple of miles from here, has managed to engender some international notoriety “causing to be publically displayed” a painting of the South African president in Stalinist style but with his crown jewels on open stylized display.  The painting was called “The spear” and was soon defaced by a couple of Afrikaans journalists.  This was one of the less controversial paintings on offer in the series named “Hail to the Thief.” None of the others enjoying the same media attention.  All of which ask questions of what precisely is the ANC delivering today as a political force in South Africa.  However, this particular spear was not well aimed, causing a back lash rather than focussing debate on the character of the president.  Satire well aimed can expose character flaws and failings in our leaders.

By the time I got to the exhibition the painting had been removed and sold to an unknown German.  It had been replaced with a monotone work a black canvass with the words “Business as usual” painted on it in white.

The ANC took the matter to court on behalf of the presidency and organised a demonstration at the museum; they were “indigent” at this attack on the dignity of the presidency and African traditions (polygamy which is available to african men but not women).

This led the opposition party in parliament to accuse the ANC of behaving like Nazis.

I am going to play it safe this week, Mozart’s 21 Piano Concerto at the Linder Auditorium tomorrow and Hugh Masekela (of “Bring back Nelson Mandela” and “Grazing in the Grass” fame) at the Reef Casino on Friday.  What could possibly be wrong with that?  I will let you know in my next blog!

One thing I am finding here – South African art, culture and politics is as varied and creative as its peoples which makes it a great place to visit.

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