Statement from the FXI: The Freedom of Expression Institute is deeply concerned with the decision by the organisers of the Johannesburg Art Fair to withdraw a work by Ayanda Mabulu dealing with the Marikana tragedy and calls on them to reconsider this censorious action.
It is a case of business interests interfering with artistic expression in a way that is deeply undermining of the work and free expression in general. If it is true, as reported, that the work was withdrawn out of sensitivity to sponsors and politicians, then the Fair organisers are doing the work of censors and demeaning what is an important event in Joburg’s art calendar.
After the Sharpeville massacre, many writers and artists were censored by the apartheid state when they attempted to deal with the event and its aftermath. It would be a terrible day if, in the wake of the Marikana tragedy, that this role of restricting our artists was taken up by the private sector.
Art is not art if it is scared of provoking or even offending. And an Art Fair is not serving its purpose of promoting the market for South African creativity if it is fearful of such work. In this short-sighted decision, the organisers are in danger of reducing the Art Fair to an interior decorating exhibition – and that would be most unfortunate.
We hope that fellow artists will show solidarity with Mabulu and that the art-loving public will encourage the Art Fair organisers to reverse their decision.