KZN matric pupil says his art is not satanic but explores commercialised religion

Pastor Andrew Anderson in screen grab from his viral video expressing outrage at artworks on display at a Kwa-Zulu Natal high school.

Also see commentary by Afrika Mhlophe:
http://gatewaynews.co.za/when-artistic-licence-gets-pushed-too-far-afrika-mhlophe/

A Kwa-Zulu Natal matric pupil whose art is at the centre of a social media storm for being blasphemous says his sketches and sculptures “are a far cry from the satanic panic some people claim it to be”.

In a statement released on Twitter today the Grantleigh High School pupil says in view of the controversy after his matric art exhibition was “leaked” without his permission, he decided to explain the rationale behind his works, which he says explore the commercialisation of organised religion and exploitation of the faithful.

Towards the end of his statement, the artist says his works do not come from a place of malice or necessarily reflect the views of his school. He says he doesn’t care about what people believe but does care about “fairness and the sanctity of the human mind”.

NEWS FLASH

School removes exhibition, apologises

Grantleigh High School’s controversial art exhibition has been taken down in response to the outcry by Christians, says Pastor Andrew Anderson whose “blasphemy” video went viral, reports News 24

In a statement today, the school apologised for offending anybody.

“Curro extends an unreserved apology to all those community members who have been affected and offended by the artwork in question. We urge the community to support Curro, Grantleigh and its leadership in their sincere and determined efforts to ensure that we continue to offer the best quality education to every learner under our care.”

It said that following an internal investigation, Curro determined that the duty of care and guidance offered to the learner did not always adequately address the underlying issues and potential implications of producing a visual art piece, the content of which was controversial and likely to stir emotive responses.

Read more

‘The matter has been resolved’, says pastor parent

View video message by Pastor Andrew Anderson

Christian reaction to yesterday’s viral video showing a parent’s despair at the “demonic” and “blasphemous” drawings and sculptures at the private, high school, has ranged from outrage to a call for a more loving response that seeks to understand the heart of the artist.

In a response to the outcry, Andrew Norris, executive head of the Richards Bay school, which is part of the Curro group and has a Christian ethos, said yesterday that they were conducting an internal investigation into the matter but objected to “cyber bullying” and misrepresentation of the artwork which formed part of a final submission to the IEB by a pupil at the school.

The video [see at bottom of page], showing drawings in which Jesus is depicted as a clown and horned figures plastered with fragments of pages torn from the Bible, was made and shared on social media by Andrew Anderson, who is a parent at the school and an Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) pastor at Ballito, north of Durban.

Anderson reportedly has said he decided to record the video after speaking to the school principal, who he said was unapologetic about the exhibit, instead referring to it as social commentary.

Grantleigh’s operational head, Juriana Filmalter, yesterday published a response on Facebook stating: “The Art was not ‘open’ for all kids to see. There was also a warning that it may not be photographed and you needed to read the rationale to put the art into perspective…”

AFM South Africa’s General Secretary, Dr Henri Weideman, yesterday sent an open letter to the school requesting clarity regarding the intended message of the artwork, confirmation that pages of the Bible were torn and used as part of the artwork, and how the values of the school align with the nature of the artwork displayed. At the time of writing this article, the school had not responded to Dr Weideman’s letter.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) Leader, Dr Kenneth Meshoe, yesterday labelled the artwork, which “supposedly reflects the artist’s journey to atheism”, as blasphemous and stated that it “cannot be justified under freedom of artistic creativity, and may well border on hate speech and religious intolerance. It is important that freedom of expression, which includes freedom of artistic creativity, must be balanced against the right of Christians to have their faith respected, as contained in the freedom of religion.” The ACDP has appealed to the school to remove the display and apologise to all Christians who have been offended by it.

The Freedom Front Plus has questioned why Jesus can be depicted as a clown in a school art project, while the old South African flag has been banned because of its historical connotation.

Dean of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Theology Professor Reggie Nel, said today that the “artwork”, which he said contains violent images and appears to be deliberately focused on provoking shock and causing offence, should rather prompt Christian believers to question “what lies behind it”.

In an interview with Gateway News reporter, Anthea Abraham, before the matric artist released his rationale, Nel said any believers from a Christian background and who have chosen, in faith, to believe in God, must remember that (perhaps) the learner – a teenager most probably between 17-18 years old who produced the artwork allegedly, is an atheist and therefore does not believe in the existence of God (and therefore perhaps in a personified evil, which we might call Satan).

He said that Christian parents also need to realise that the world has changed and that young people, who are confronted with so many divergent views and belief systems, are on a journey to understanding and making sense of the world around them. Sometimes they want to shock in order to get a reaction from us, said Nel.

“The Christian church has to ask itself how it can engage with young people to draw them to Christ who gave His life for us. We need to share the love of Christ with a generation crying out and shaking us to engage with them. We must ask ourselves what is behind the pupil’s choice to reject what we accept as Truth, what we hold dear, instead of pushing him further away.

“We must realise that we are living in a post-modern time where individual freedom and liberty exists and young people are rebelling and rejecting traditional and formalised programmes. This is the new missionary field – missionaries must go into these spaces of pop culture and the online world, etc., which are so foreign if you are a believer in Christ, but we have to make a commitment and discern God in these spaces because of the love of God and even be prepared to give our life to express something different to what is becoming the norm,” says Professor Nel.

Nel said his goal was to develop youth workers that are new missionaries who are prepared to go out into various sectors of society, who love young people in their brokenness and in the midst of them even often being militant, these missional youth workers are to express and embody the love of Christ in new and dynamic ways.

He said we can learn from the story of Jesus when He was on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) when deciding how to engage with the youth.

“Jesus joined them in journey and their the conversation, listening and responding, and only much later when He broke bread with them that their eyes were opened. He did not impose Himself on them,” said Nel.

Perhaps, this is a wake-up call to all of us to also get to know young people like this teenager and ask: ‘What are they trying to tell us today?’ ” he said.

The matric pupil behind the art controversy, says in his explanation of his rationale that his controversial artworks “discuss (through the appropriation of religious imagery) how contemporary religion has become superficial. Instead of connecting with one’s faith on a deep, seemingly meaningful level and actually having the guts to ask metaphysical questions, many simply consume their religion in the same fashion as any other product.”

He said he used the Ronald McDonald clown figure as a symbol for “the infection of faith with consumer culture”.

“Ronald McDonald does not act as a defamation of anyone’s personal messiah, instead he acts as symbol of the abuse and the misuse thereof,” the pupil says.

Denouncing “unfounded claims” made against his art on social media he advised critics to think before they speak.

7 Comments

  1. Professor Nel, the world doesn’t dictate what is right and what is wrong.. the Bible does.

  2. I need to ask – is this student a Christian? What is his religion or upbringing? The fact that he states that he ‘does not care’ is itself a blaspheme towards our God. He says his aim was to highlight the commercialism of Christianity but i say hogwash. Christ is not the one to mock – by all means mock individuals that you deem to be guilty of this but to depict our loving Savior in the manner that you have is despicable. And with all due respect to Ms Arbuckle on East Coast Radio this morning, stammering and stuttering – trying not to say too much – yes you are educated, or should I say ‘schooled’, but not in ‘truth’ rather in the ability to justify deranged art and/or literature. And with all due respect to the radio presenter on ECR this morning, you don’t know what you are saying – Art, Literature, living, feelings, desires, life in general – it must all be censored otherwise we would be no better than animals living on instinct and uncivilized. Please sir and Ms Arbuckle, call a spade a spade – the ‘artist’ portrayed our living God as a clown posturing in a very sexually way with a demonic type creature, any other meaning behind that is so obscure as to be non-existent and I protest and am deeply offended. The fact that the art teacher and the School allowed such an exhibition should be very much Censured.

  3. Dr A Van der Westhuizen

    Very well said, Wendy Scott!!!

  4. After the blind beggar was healed by Jesus all he could say was ” I dont know about these other questions you are asking me but all I know is I was blind but now I can see” .
    I was also shocked the first time I saw the video , but after reading the article now realise that we as followers of Christ must love this pupil with the love of Christ and pray that persons with views such as these will have their eyes opened to experience the joy and peace that only HE can give

  5. An excellent article by Mike Burnard can be found in response to this: Incontext International : “Demonic” Artwork in Schools —A Christian response. worth reading.

  6. I could not have said it better than Pastor Kenneth Meshoe and Wendy Scott. This student with all his “wisdom” knew that he was going to offend and shock the Christian fraternity. That clearly was his intention, not for good but for bad and he clearly thought up a reasoning in an attempt to soften the offense after the outcry against him and the school. It doesn’t excuse the depicting of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in the way he has done or the tearing up a Bible, our very precious Word of God, for his own benefit, thereby doing exactly what he accuses the church of doing. Having said that I do agree that the artist needs to be forgiven as our loving God expects us to do and needs kind and loving guidance into a true relationship with Jesus Christ as much as those supposedly Christian church leaders who are undeniably guilty as charged: the commercialisation of organised religion and exploitation of the faithful.

  7. The artist should use Mohammed as his next subject and see what the Muslims will do to him, school & community!!!