ARTY HUG: Jackson Mthembu ANC spokesperson giving Liza Essers a hug yesterday. Picture: HERBERT MATIMBA
A strong show of reconciliation played out yesterday at the Goodman Gallery during a joint press briefing hosted by gallery owner, Liza Essers, and ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, with both parties intent on burying the hatchet.
The Zuma spear saga was characterised by fiery rhetoric from the ANC and its alliance partners, the arrest of painting defacers, an emotional outburst in court, newspaper boycotts and protest marches over Brett Murray’s The Spear artwork depicting President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
The press conference was called to clear up confusion around Tuesday’s announcement by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe that the gallery would remove the image of the painting from its website, followed by an almost immediate contradictory response from Essers.
With the cameras rolling and photographers crowding, Mthembu embraced Essers upon his arrival at the gallery, alluding to a clear cessation of hostilities between the parties.
At their presentation of a joint settlement agreement Mthembu, speaking first said: “We were (on Tuesday night) able to strike an agreement between ourselves, the Goodman Gallery and Brett Murray. It has not been easy (but we were able) to find some commonalities with regard to what was facing our country,” he said.
Essers said that there have been long conversations between the various parties in order to find common ground.
“I am pleased to say that the ANC and ourselves have heard one another. As a gesture of goodwill and because the image is now widely in the public domain, I will take the image down at some point from our website,” said Essers.
Mthembu welcomed Essers’ announcement, thanking both her as well as Murray for the decision to remove the image, reflecting on the fact that had the parties sat around a table to discuss the issue instead of communicating via lawyers’ letters, a solution could have been reached sooner.
Essers confirmed that the gallery would honour its obligations and the artwork will still be sold to the German collector who still wants it “in its defaced form”.
Zuma and the ANC’s court bid before the South Gauteng High Court will be withdrawn, confirmed Mthembu.
The Film and Publication Board (FPB) is expected to make a ruling tomorrow on whether or not to classify the controversial artwork.