South Africa outraged over Mandela autopsy painting

July 10th, 2010 - 8:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, July 10 (IANS) A painting which shows former president Nelson Mandela as a corpse undergoing an autopsy has evoked outrage in South Africa. The country’s ruling party has termed it “witchcraft” and “racist”.
Yiull Damaso, 41, parodied a 17th-century masterpiece by Rembrandt titled “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp”.

The painting shows Mandela’s body covered in only a loincloth while Nkosi Johnson, a 12-year-old boy who died after being affected with AIDS, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jacob Zuma and former presidents F.W. de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki look over.

The painting has been termed an “insult” and “witchcraft” by the African National Congress (ANC), the Guardian reported.

Damaso, however, argued that South Africa must “confront a subject that remains almost taboo” - the future death of Mandela. The country’s first black president turns 92 this July.

The painting has the same name as the original by Rembrandt and has been on display for the past two days at a shopping mall in Johannesburg.

However, its reproduction on the front page of today’s Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa evoked outrage from the ruling ANC.

“The ANC is appalled and strongly condemns in the strongest possible terms the dead Mandela painting by Yiull Damaso,” said Jackson Mthembu, a party spokesman. “It is in bad taste, disrespectful, and it is an insult and an affront to values of our society.

“This so-called work of art is also racist. It goes further by violating Mandela’s dignity by stripping him naked in the glare of curious onlookers, some of whom have seen their apartheid ideals die before them.”

But Damaso is unrepentant, saying that he used the image to convey a political argument.

“We have Nelson Mandela, one of the great leaders of our time, and the politicians around him are trying to find out what makes him a great man. Nkosi Johnson, the only one in the painting who’s no longer alive, is trying to show them that Mandela is just a man. So they should stop searching and get on with building the country,” he said.

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