A South African university has come under fire for displaying a painting by a man jailed for kicking a prostitute to death, with outrage brimming in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for women. Zwelethu Mthethwa’s work has been on display at the University of Pretoria’s Javett Art Centre since September. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2017 for savagely killing 23-year-old Nokuphila Kumalo four years earlier. His 1996 oeuvre, “The Wedding Party”, shows a new husband being congratulated while his uninterested, passive bride sips a drink.
The Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) said the painting should be removed “out of respect” to Kumalo’s family and taking into account the “violence meted out by men to vulnerable and marginalised populations … in South Africa.” South Africa is plagued by violence against women, with at least 137 sexual offences committed every day, according to official figures. In August alone, more than 30 women were killed by their spouses.
The university’s art centre has defended the curators of the “All in Day’s Eye: The Politics of Innocence” exhibition, saying Mthethwa’s painting was included “with the sole purpose of presenting it as ‘evidence’ that highlights how misogyny has played out in his work over time.” Social media networks were filled with outrage. “We don’t need to debate whether violent murderers’ work should be exhibited – when conditions continue to support violence against women, transgender people,” one tweet read. SWEAT launched an online petition against the display of the painting.–AFP