Arts censorship re-emerges in South Africa

Arts censorship is re-emerging in South Africa despite 19 years of democracy.

Charl Blignaut, a senior reporter at City Press, said that a new form of censorship, which is exemplified by the canning of shows and pulling of adverts, was emerging in South Africa.

He said that this form of censorship was similar to apartheid censorship. During apartheid artists would show their work in galleries but government will step in and censor the work only when it has got the media’s attention.

“We have a series of attacks on art by the government,” he said. He also referred to the case of The Spear of the Nation painting by Brett Murray which was frowned upon by the African National Congress for ‘insulting’ the president.


Andries Botha, (on the left with arts journalist for the City Press Percy Mabandu) a sculptor who worked has with the Human Elephant Foundation, said that he was approached by the City of eThekwini to create five elephant sculptures to be placed at the Warwick Triangle in Durban before the CoP 17 conference. Botha agreed to create the sculptures but said he could only create three in time for the conference.

Botha said that three weeks from conclusion he was told to stop the project because the elephants were seen as political statements rather than works of art. This led a to a two-year legal battle with the municipality. He said that he took the City of eThekwini to court to defend the elephants as a work of art.

Percy Mabandu, City Press arts journalist, said that what makes the art provocative is that the art that sparks contestations from government and the general public required South Africans to look deeper within themselves for meaning.

Click on the following link to listen to the debate: Arts censorship debate

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