Many know of Nelson Mandela, fewer of his feats, and even fewer of what he did for South Africa as a nation. Nonetheless, even some of those who perceive themselves to be great thinkers have misunderstood the significance of this mortal and his influence.
Rolihlahla Mandela spent 67 years of his life fighting for the greater good of humanity. Twenty-seven of those years he spent in prison. He continues, to this day, to fight for humanity. Mandela is an international icon and an example to all true South Africans.
Yuill Damaso, however, clearly thinks otherwise. He crafted a sacrilegious painting depicting a deceased Nelson Mandela surrounded by select members of past and present parliament. This work was designed as a parody of Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp", but falls horribly short of the Dutch master's standards, albeit a 'work in progress'.
The work of Damaso sparked international outrage, supported by many South Africans. Damaso himself states that he does not apologise for the painting and that his message is for the government to wake up and see what life will be like without Mandela holding the nation together. As per usual, Damaso -like so many- has failed to comprehend the full consequences of his actions.
Most of this nation's population are people of colour. A large percentage of this sector of the public extol Mandela as he 'saved' them from Apartheid -when in fact he saved all South Africans because the country was on the verge of civil war nearing the end of Apartheid, and Mandela doused that flame. Therefore, many white citizens also realise that they live their peaceful lives, and most of them affluently, thanks in part to Mandela.
Furthermore, most of this country's population are uneducated and will not understand the underlying message of Damaso's work. Many of those still uneducated are people of colour who may still harbour resentment towards the previously privileged white population. All this painting accomplishes is stirring up fresh hatred between different races in our country -although, supposedly, this outcome was far from the artist's intentions.
Let us take a look at the real 'big picture': Damaso creates a controversial painting. The painting sparks an uproar in the leading governing party. The supporters of that party are therefore also infuriated. Inevitably, the blame is placed at the foot of white racism, which breeds black hatred. This self-perpetuating racism is what may again lead to a huge and irreversible rift between the white population and the people of colour in South Africa.
In conclusion, I find Damaso's work extremely disrespectful and feel that he needs to wake up and realise that the world is not always one's oyster. One day an artist just like him may be the final straw on the camel's back, because in truth we must know that our fragile society is much less robust than we idealise it to be.