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Mon Sep 01 20:33:29 SAST 2014

Murray a 'struggle hero'

ANDREA NAGEL | 22 May, 2012 00:59
A visitor to the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, Georg Knoke, holds his hat over the exposed parts of President Jacob Zuma in a painting entitled The Spear by artist Brett Murray.
Image by: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

Brett Murray, the painter of the controversial The Spear, has lived through South Africa's political change.

He was awarded his Master's of Fine Arts degree in 1989 with distinction and graduated with the dissertation 'A Group of Satirical Sculptures Examining Social and Political Paradoxes in the South African Context'.

No stranger to controversy, Murray is well-known for taking up the position of artist as a social commentator and cultural mediator.

Executive director of the African Arts Institute Mike van Graan said in the Cape Times this week: "We [he and Murray] worked together in the cultural sector of the anti-apartheid struggle and particularly during the 'Towards a People's Culture Festival' during the state of emergency.

"The apartheid government banned the festival because it deemed it 'a threat to national security'."

In 2000, Cape Town city officials tried to prevent the installation of a sculpture titled Africa, a bronze of a generically African figure 'disturbed' by protruding models of US cartoon character Bart Simpson's head.

Murray has exhibited locally and abroad, with a recurring theme being ''satirical attacks on bad government, intended to provoke".

In the introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition White Like Me (2002-2003), former journalist Ivor Powell wrote: ''Murray, like many others in the early 1980s and early 1990s, actively identified himself with the struggle for democratic values in South Africa. And like many South Africans, he experiences and expresses a sense of disappointment and anger with the fruits of that struggle - the replacement [...] of white fascism with black fascism."

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Mon Sep 01 20:33:29 SAST 2014 ::