Economy of Rape

Economy rape by Ayanda Mabulu

Writer: Kholeka Shange
Artwork: Ayanda Mabulu

“Akadeleli uqhuba intwala ngewisa” is an adage used by IsiZulu speakers to describe a person’s unrelenting insolence towards another. In the context of Ayanda Mabulu’s numerous visual depictions of President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma’s phallus, a number of conservative (IsiZulu speaking) traditionalists, ANC loyalists and some sectors of the South African public have utilized respectability as a tool to question Mabulu’s “Africanness” for “failing” to honour the elder-child dynamic wherein the child is expected to show respect for his or her elders at all times. The elder in this case is the head of state while Mabulu is expected to occupy the position of the infantilised,aberrant Black artist who is out of touch with “African” customs.

In his latest work, Mabulu depicts President Zuma and the late former President Nelson Mandela through what he calls the “visual language of nudity”. In this painting, the ANC emblem (which is representative of the ANC’s precarious politics) serves as a backdrop through which the spectacle of the Zuma/Mandela sexual encounter that Mabulu terms the “economy of rape” is reified. When asked about the use of the traumatic experience of rape as a visual metaphor in a country where rape is a pandemic, Mabulu retorts, “We are dealing with a president who is a rapist (in reference to the rape of the late Fezekile Kuzwayo who was commonly known as Khwezi). It would be something else if I were painting a person who is not a rapist as a rapist. Here we are talking about a rapist”.

However, Mabulu also states that in this work, rape may be used as an allegory of the ruling party’s (which he terms the “black elite” or the “black bourgeoisie”) exploitation of the country’s resources at the expense of what he refers to as “peasants” or the Black working class. According to Mabulu, the ANC has become the oppressor, which safeguards white monopoly capital (that continues to reap great benefits from poor Black labour) and “inflicts pain, violence and hunger, while it pushes the masses to a perpetual corner of submission”.

When asked how he feels about his work being labelled vulgar and banal, he states, “My work is about the people. It is about the language of the streets. It is about the language that we speak in our homes…a language that says this motherfucker is fucking us around”. Mabulu emphasises that his work does not necessarily explore queer politics, rather it uses the idea of a same sex relationship between cis het men as a visual device through which the shifting narratives between Mandela’s rainbow tinted ANC and Zuma’s ANC are explored.

Mabulu notes that as a result of not being a “gallery-type artist”, he is able to be a voice of dissent, which represents the concerns of ordinary Black South Africans. He asserts, “A gallery cannot contain the voice of the people because I am the people. This work is not supposed to be hung on a wall. It must reside in the minds of the people, and that is what I am working towards. It is about conscientising and making sure that the people understand their worth and their position. It is about making them understand that they can decide their own future”.

With such a contentious subject matter at the centre of Mabulu’s “Economy of Rape”, it is only expected that this work will not only be enshrined in the minds of the people but that it will spark dialogue across political spectrums.


11 thoughts on “Economy of Rape

  1. I REALLY really like Mr Mabulu & respect his bravery & abandon when it comes to creating images that portray so accurately an honest critique of “post-apartheid” South Africa. And as usual he’s created something that has left people reacting so intensely and you better believe people won’t forget his work any time soon, which is every artists dream. This time around the genius of the piece is on so many levels. 1. the depiction of the SA economy as Zuma raping Mandela’s economy, which is in itself a rape (of the poor Black proletariat). 2. The rage response. People are so outraged and the GENIUS behind the work is that we’re not sure whether they’re homophobic and enraged by the homosexuality depicted, or if they’re enraged by the truth of the painting which is 3. that South Africa under ANC rule is actually quite obscene. We as South Africans are LITERALLY in our day to day lives watching Zuma & his politicians do very obscene things living in luxury while we look on in shock and rage, the same way we look at/react to the painting. 4. Zuma depicted as raping mandela is what he’s doing to Mandela’s white capitalism. Literally taking as many advantages as he can. Sadly to the determent of poor Black people.

    South Africa NEEEDS honest artists like Ayanda Mabulu, whose art is so striking and always evokes such a strong response in people who see it (which is the marker of good art, it evokes a strong emotional response). His art reflects so many people’s sentiments.

    I’d love to have a conversatton with Mr Mabulu and wish I could afford his work because I’d definitely have a piece in my house.


  2. Ayanda Mabulu is a stupid trying to be famous.Madiba is a respectful man who should be respected at all time.I personally think he is mad and need psychiatric test for mental evaluation.And who ever posted his on media doesn’t have respect for the icon who fought for our liberation.He or she must draw his or a parents naked first and not Madiba and or Zuma.Thats a disgrace


  3. To me it is discusting our dignity as blacks and people that we respect the elders.i m very dissapointed if this Mabulu he black and have parents. Ngyacela ukuty sixhumane naye sixoxe simbonise ngoba usikhombisa ukuty uphuma ekhaya elinjani


  4. This is a very beautiful piece that tells a lot in just ONE LOOK!!! Ayanda Mabula is an ARTIST & that’s how he speaks just like how rappers & singers do he does it his own way!!! Zuma is FUCKING US AROUND!!! & AS A PRESIDENT HE DOESN’T SUFFER BECAUSE WE FED HIM & HIS FAMILY WITH OUR TAX


  5. Unesibindi asnayo ngisho inyongo ecelen sengifisa ukwaz umama owakukhulisa uzizwa njani ngawe usungusaziwayo wesehluleki

    Ziningi kabi izindlela zokuzwakalisa uvo lwakho ngaphandle kokudicilela isithunzi sabantu abahloniphekile kangaka emanyaleni


  6. We Ayanda ndini loyo…ungawenza yini lowomdwebo wakho kube umkhulu wakho ngaphezulu bese kuba uyihlo ngaphansi…bese ukhombisa izwelonke okufaka phakathi nezitha zomndeni…?? Lababantu abakukhuthaza ukuba wenze lomkhuba omubi kanje yibona kanye abaphinde bahlekise ngendlu yabansundu okufaka wena phakathi….remember they always say they will always rule over us because they always keep us devided based on our own differences..


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