Mashatile, Goodman Gallery meet

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile has committed himself to initiate a national dialogue on the importance of arts in the country after meeting with the Goodman Gallery on Monday.

Mashatile met Lisa Esser of the Goodman Gallery last night to discuss the controversial piece by artist Brett Murray, entitled The Spear, which portrays President Jacob Zuma in an offensive manner.

After the two-hour meeting, Mashatile committed to starting a process of national dialogue, where the role of the arts in the development of society would be debated.

"It is important that we continue to have on-going dialogue about the role of the arts in society," he said.

The two also reiterated the important role played by the arts as well as galleries in the process of nation building and promoting social cohesion.

Esser said it was never her intention and that of the Goodman Gallery to harm the dignity of anyone, including the President, with the display of The Spear.

She further "regretted" the pain that the display of The Spear has caused President Zuma, his family as well as the nation.

Mashatile and Esser agreed that the entire matter involved balancing two competing constitutional rights - the right to human dignity and the right to freedom of artistic expression, which both have a crucial place in democracy.

Meanwhile, around 15 000 ANC supporters are expected to march to the gallery this morning in protest of the controversial portrait, which until it was defaced last Tuesday, was on display at the Goodman Gallery.

The City Press newspaper yesterday removed a picture of the painting from its website.

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee said: "The Spear is down. Out of care and as an olive branch to play a small role in helping turn around a tough moment, I have decided to take down the image."

Last week, the South Gauteng High Court postponed the application to ban Murray's offensive painting indefinitely.

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