Walk-out not anti-gay – Xingwana

The widely-reported walk-out by Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana at an “Innovative Women” art exhibition organised by lesbians was not based on anti-gay sentiments, she said on Thursday.

Xingwana said reports about her reaction to the exhibition, held at Constitution Hill in August last year, were “mischievous, deliberately misleading and avoiding the facts. Upon arrival at the exhibition, I immediately saw images which I deemed offensive. The images in large frames were of naked bodies presumably involved in sexual acts,” she said in a statement.

“I was particularly revolted by an image called ‘self-rape’, depicting a sexual act with a nature scene as the backdrop. The notion of self-rape trivialises the scourge of rape in this country.” Xingwana said contrary to media reports, she had not been aware if the bodies in the images were of men or women, or both.

“My reaction was guided by the view that these ‘artworks’ were not suitable for a family audience [and] I noticed that there were children as young as three-years-old in the room. “I was not aware of the sexual orientation of the pictures or the artists and my reaction was not based on anti-gay sentiments as implied in some media reports on the matter,” she said.

Xingwana said the images she saw were not works of art, but crude misrepresentations of women, both black and white, masquerading as artworks, rather than engaged in questioning, which is what she believed art was about.

“Those particular works of art stereotyped black women. As a public representative and as a South African, I uphold the laws of our country and the Constitution. I have fought for liberation and women’s rights for the most part of my life.

“However, I believe the rights that have been entrenched in our Constitution include the rights of children. This is why we have laws in this country that protect children against exposure to pornographic material. “I, therefore would not, for any reason, be part of any tendencies that undermine the rights of people.” Claims that she was homophobic were “baseless and insulting”.

She had not censored any artists and the funding polices of her ministry and department were clear.

“What I think is necessary in our country today is a long overdue debate on what is art, and where do we draw the line between art and pornography,” Xingwana said.

Reports about Xingwana’s walk-out followed the publication of a story of one of the artists, who accused her of being homophobic. This prompted the Democratic Alliance to call for her resignation based on claims she was “homophobic and bigoted”.

The Freedom of Expression Institute has also expressed disappointment at Xingwana’s reported attitude.

Source: news24 online, 20100305

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