The Spear

Zulu Homopobes

This is the kind of post you never want to write…

but someone has to…

In South Africa, there is a rampant phenomenon known as corrective rape…

throughout the country men are raping lesbians in an attempt to “cure” their sexual orientation…

(watch an excellent Dan Rather corrective rape report here…)

overall the statistics are alarming…

In general, South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world: 1 in 2 women can be expected to be raped at least once in her lifetime, and 1 in 4 men admitted that they had committed rape at one time or another.

Even the president Jacob Zuma has been charged with rape.

According to court testimony, he raped the daughter of his deceased friend: a 31-year-old woman and family friend at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg. She was an AIDS activist and HIV positive.  Zuma knew this, and yet he did not use a condom.  He told the court that to reduce the chance of contracting the disease he took a shower afterward.  He also told the court that he believed the victim was sending him sexual signals by wearing a knee-length skirt and no underwear under her kanga, or wrap, and sitting with her legs uncrossed, and that it was his duty, as a Zulu man, to satisfy a sexually aroused woman.

(For a timeline of the trial read here.)

These comments bring the recent controversial painting of Zuma rendered by the white South African painter Brett Murray into a new light.  The painting is named The Spear, and in it, Zuma stands bravely like a Russian Lenin, a defiant champion of the people–and yet, there is something off with the civilized depiction, for he is nude from the waist down.

(Above please see the Brett Murray painting in question alongside its proxy, an actual portrait of Vladimir Lenin.)

With Zuma’s rape charge in mind, I would argue now that Zuma’s exposed loins are thereby revealed to be a brutal weapon, a weapon of twisted tradition and history, the embodiment of South African misogyny, patriarchy, and violence against women–and by extension, yes, the violence of Africans and Christians against the LGBT community. (Let’s not conveniently forget that South Africa is predominantly a Christian nation. And before Muslims rejoice at the savagery of Christians: let’s also remember that in 2011, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation led a walkout of Muslim states from the Human Rights Council in Geneva because  they thought the gay rights legislation promoted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would promote “licentious behavior” and lead to the “legitimization of many deplorable acts, including pedophilia and incest.”)

The Spear painting has been vandalized, and there have been uprisings and arguments regarding its significance- with black Africans incensed that a white South African could disrespect the ANC president by exposing his painted penis to the world.  But I wonder why these same Africans are not rioting in the streets over the victimization of women in general, and the rape and murder of lesbian women in particular, and the terrifying shouts of “We’ll show you you’re a woman” that resound in the night as these lesbians are raped and stabbed across South Africa.

The perverse irony is that, legally speaking, South Africa is ahead of America in the legal struggle for gay rights, and certainly ahead of Africa, and much of the world.

When the ANC came to power in 1994, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the anti-apartheid crusader Reverend Allan Boesak supported gay rights, and in 1996, President Nelson Mandela spearheaded the adoption of a constitution that overturned sodomy laws, and gave the LGBT community rights in areas such as adoption, immigration, inheritance, and medical aid.  Gays now serve openly in the South African military, and in 2004, the South African common-law definition of marriage was changed to include same-sex marriage.

On paper and in the courts South Africa is one of the freest, most loving places in the world.

But in the streets and in the townships the battle continues against ignorance, against violence, against hate, against bigoted police officers, hateful Christian ministers, and THE SPEAR, Africans that believe “gayism” is un-African, and that “jackrolling”–rape by organized gangs–is the only cure.

How this African attitude toward gayness corresponds with black American attitudes and black church attitudes toward the LGBT community is the subject of a study or documentary I’d love to to see…

Until then, please pick up the May 28, 2012 New Yorker, read “Violated Hopes” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and support the movement to stop the madness.

You can begin your fight for change by leaving thoughts, comments and questions below.

Thanks for listening. And as we fight, may we all keep laughing to keep from crying.





    • Totally get the direction of this article! And I say no to violence against glbt, but I’m zulu and it is not just zulu’s who are homophobs or using a picture with zulu men and that phrase will attract more readers? Let’s not promote hate directly or indirectly, our president is an individual who makes his own decisions as a human being he just happens to be Zulu by tradition. Let’s fight against glbt crimes, but let’s not source out a specific group and act like they are the reason for rape n crimes against glbt, all men can rape black white chinese etc and all men from all cultures can rape sotho twana xhosa venda ndebele etc

  1. I am deeply grieved to know that this level of ignorance exists. WhAt saddens me most is that many of the persons comiting such deplorable acts, consider themselves to be Christians. As a Christian, what bothers me most is that everything about their actions goes against the teachings of the bible, yet is being done with a false sense of righteous indignation. How quickly many iudgemental and hateful Christians forget the way Jesus lived while on earth. He ate with the people his society condemned as sinners. He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet wih her hair. He knew his ministry was not only to edify believers but to show the power of his love to those who were lost. Regardless of our personal beliefs about the spiritual state of homosexuals,we are called to display the love of Christ and to be examples of what Holiness looks like. I am praying for the people of South Africa.

  2. My commentary is useless. The ears that need to hear it are not listening. The eyes that need to see it are not reading. But, there is always hope. Men need to teach their sons, their nephews, their brothers, their friends…that this violence is bad, that this hatred is wrong, that this stupidity controllable. Men need to be strong again, as men, as lovers, as friends.

  3. I don’t think those who live outside of SA have the best understanding of what is going on :) I suggest they get a broader understanding of our issues.. The Spear brought up drama and many unnecessary comments about racism, which was used in conjunction with a tweet by Jessica Leandra.. Our government is beyond messed up.. But who’s isn’t?

  4. The points you make are valid Chuck but I can’t lie, it hurts to read them condensed and summarized in such a callous fashion. While we are struggling with ignorance and violence of the highest order, and while we are baffled by some of the actions and reactions of our current president and government, these issues do not define South Africa as a whole.
    There are many of us who fall outside of the blanket statement ‘black Africans incensed that a white South African could disrespect the ANC president by exposing his painted penis to the world’ and ‘African attitude toward gayness’… and statements like ‘throughout the country men are raping lesbians in an attempt to “cure” their sexual orientation…’ and ‘lesbians are raped and stabbed across South Africa’ are wildly sensationalist. We’re a nation divided – this much seems true but we are also a nation that is probably only now beginning to deal with the ugly face of racism.

    One thing I do find really offensive is the image and words you have chosen to depict as the perpetrators, the rapists, the ignorant, the bigots and the homophobes: four Zulu men and women in traditional garb. How telling.


  5. This is really sad and makes me wonder what it will take for people to start treating each other with love and respect. I refuse to accept that someone will honestly believe that raping someone will endear them towards other men. No woman wants to be raped, I know, it’s a point so obvious that it doesn’t need to be made….
    I pray for us all as a race that we can learn to love each other & to not use religion as an excuse for hypocrisy, hatred & bigotry.

  6. Gugu

    I agree with all that you have said. I know of someone who experienced that horror. I am a South African and a Zulu young lady. It’s actually quite funny ’cause at my dining hall(I go to Rhodes University) we were discussing this issue of the painting and stuff;hence I agree with your centiments.

    However, I was a little touched(and not in a good way) by some of your referrals to ‘Zulu bigots’;it is the vibrant culture from which I come. You saying ‘Zulu bigots’ made it seem as if all Zulu people are ignorant and intolerant. I suppose it is the president that has made it easy for people to say such. Nonetheless, I am still touched.
    After a unanimous conclusion at the dining hall we decided that a change needs to happen. But,the question is always:how?; trust,strikes have been had numerous times.
    One thing that people forget is that eventhough South Africa looks constitunionally perfect and intergrated it has only been 19 years since the utter eradication of Apartheid. I’ve spoken to some people and have even joked around about it sometimes that South Africa will never see a white president ever again because the people of colour still(to a large extent)don’t trust ‘white’ people.
    I digress.

    Constitutional change has occured,but what will really need to change are the hearts and minds of the people from all the different races and classes. As I type this sentence my mind is still screaming ‘how??You can only understand me by actually being here and seeing things the way I see them to understand that we all agree that a president who is totally sold out for the people first and then other things second is much needed. Sometimes I feel so powerless because I’m very aware and observant,but I just don’t know how to bring forth that change’;but,I’m hopeful and am educating myself for such a time . A plan shall come to mind:)

    Cudos for the post.

    • Gugu

      actually that cover photo of the four zulu peeps is not cool at all,well the words rather.

    • I learned a lot from reading this post and this comment in particular. Thanks for the perspective Gugulethu. My hope is that you are correct in your assertion that more TIME is needed to deal with such a deeply rooted issue

  7. This Spear issue has been poorly handled and blown way out of proportion. There are far worse things happening in our country that we could use all this time for. Secondly all this racism nonsense popping out this year is taking us back as a country. We need to focus on making this country a better place instead of focusinf on silly paintings. Sisulu, Mandela, Biko & the rest didn’t fight for freedom and unity so that we could spend our days discussing such trivial shit. If all this noise was about building more schools and alleviating poverty, I’d be the happiest man.

  8. As a man, I believe rape is a disease perpetuated by weak individuals. A real man should know that a woman’s safety and well being has nothing to do with her sexual orientation. Discriminating someone else because of their sexuality is the dumbest pass-time we as humans indulge in. Personally my own sexual life keeps me busy enough to not worry about someone else’s sexual preference.

    As an African, I don’t expect Americans to understand African issues and values. We’re raised to respect the father figure in the household and exposing genitalia falls outside of that spectrum. The President is seen as the father of the nation (no pun intended) and as much as we judge him on his much publicised scandals, no one wants to see their father’s penis- not even depicted on a portrait.

    I am an artist in my own right and often I have to express myself vividly through my art. I’m well aware that art is open to interpretation and scrutiny. “The Spear” was taken out of context as it forms part of a series of works composed by the artist.

    What the ANC did was use this to their advantage by dragging this media circus longer than we needed to entertain it. They played the race card because they needed something that would get their supporters behind JZ. Am I the only one that noticed that ANC members in favour of a second term for Msholozi were the most vocal outlets crying foul?

    Lastly, I love my South Africa with all the challenges we’re facing. I am blessed to have been born and raised here. Americans are easily mind-fucked by their media and impose their opinions of the world as gospel. I’d consider myself a failure if an American opinion of SA offended me- I bet they still tell their children that we live in the jungle with wild animals, lol! My generation is making things better, and that’s where my pride is concentrated.

    Bless you

  9. I wholeheartedly agree with Amber’s response. What concerns me is that those who hold a traditional view of sexuality (Christians in particular) are equated as being homophobic. Though some are undoubtedly hateful, not all who follows a faith that disagrees with homosexuality believe or condone violence toward homosexuals

  10. Shocking… Rather than seeing the evil painted in the article for what it is, people would rather try to defend/justify it… I’m a S.African gay teen, it hurts to know that about half of the lesbians I come across are bound to get raped sooner or later… As the article said, S.A is one of the freest nations, but sadly we don’t live in the courts in which those courts are upheld..

    Amazing people are so fast to defend the president of the ANC but cannot do the same for one another. And every issue which a white person bring to perspective is quickly linked to race, the case of the two models who recently used hate speech over twitter is the perfect example, the white female had several cases opened against her and none for the black model.

    Looking forward to the time starts living up to it’s constitution

  11. This is complicated and there are a lot of things going on in this post, but, it’s just wrong to use that photo w/ the caption—it’s just plain offensive to Zulu people as a whole. ( I can say this bc I have friends who are Zulu and certainly not homophobes. ) This sickening “corrective rape” business exists in other cultures, and is NOT something new. It makes me mad all the same.

  12. Corrective Rape. Another case of people not putting themselves in each others shoes. How would these so-called men(Because Real Men don’t Rape) feel if Gay Men that were Bigger and Stronger than them used Corrective Rape on them to try to make them join the Rainbow? I bet they would feel Viciously Violated and be ready to go on a rampage. Yet, these people don’t take into consideration how they make women feel. This is also another case of people using Religion to justify their Violence. These people can’t possibly call themselves Christian if they are in favor of “Corrective Rape”. WWJR? (Who Would Jesus Rape?)

  13. This is a complete load of drivel. I am South African, and to all non-South Africans reading this article, please do not believe this trash, written by an ignorant fool. — PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN

  14. (Read comment to understand, not to fight). Ok as much as corrective rape or any other rape is sickening and disgusting, I find that the author of the article is using a whole lot of sensational writing. So correctice rape is “rampant”, by that statement you are suggesting that corrective rape is as common as for exampele “house burglaries”. I think not. Although even one case of corrective rape is too much, to imply that its some sort of everyday culture south african, black & Christian men accept like some sort of sport is ridiculous. You yourself are using stereotypes of black, south african and Christian men to fight against stereotypes of lgbt community, how ironic. I am a proud south african, black and christian man and I and other people like me certainly cannot relate to your skewed opinion and I believe most are against any violence purpetuated to any woman. Your article is based more on your emotions rather than the facts. The statistic you quote, 1 in 4 men rape, is not a statistic on South African men as a whole but was a study done by the SA Medical Research Council of 1738 across age, colour and from urban and rural backgrounds in men from the Eastern Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal. Yes across different colours, seeing that you think rape is a product of patriachal african traditions and that somehow men of european decent are far removed from it. It also found that the majority of rapers had educated backgrounds and some sort of income. Not exactly the profile of majority of rural men me thinks. I’m no big fan of Zuma but I’m not really amazed that you left the part about Zuma being aquitted of rape because the woman in question changed her story so much that the judge was left with no choice but not to believe her. Now this doesn’t mean Zuma is innocent, he could just have great lawyers, but the fact that you left it out seems to me you where trying to get your readers to take a certain side of the story instead of letting them make their own decision by giving them the full facts. SA’s rape incidences are unacceptable, but however your notion that rape is South African men’s favourite activity after soccer, rugby and cricket is worrying and that to imply that this behaviour is condoned by the majority of government, spiritual groups, traditional teachings and men is also very wrong. Its unfortunate that an article that was supposed to point out a worrying factor which is rape in SA was tittered with so many ill informed “facts” about South Africa. SA does have a unacceptable incidents of rape, that however does not mean it is a condoned or accepted behaviour by a majority of south african men, even when purpetuated against gay people, as this article alludes. Thank you.

  15. I am a South African black female, a close relative of mine has been unfortunate enough to go through the trauma of corrective rape, she now has a child from that. I also have heterosexual friends whom have been raped. I myself am a victim of rape. When I saw this blog, my first instinct was get angry at the fact that, this issue of brutal rape in South Africa (a very serious issue, that I do not think is taken lightly by woman’s rights groups in the country), can be somehow linked to ‘The Spear’, a caricature of our president that has been completely blown out of proportion in the country – with people calling it a while liberal view on the black male; an attack on African culture etc… Does some of what it represents ring true? Yes! But on the person of the president and his government and not the country as a whole. That is my view on it. I so wish that the writer has not used this painting as a reference point to base his article on, that was widely sensationalist on your part – your statements on Africans being bigoted and so full of hatred is one I feel is completely un-informed and ignorant on your part.

    The painting has now in the past week been defaced – by two South Africans from completely different backgrounds, on different sides on the colour spectrum. One felt that it was disrespectful toward an elder, the other man felt we have far bigger problems to deal with in South Africa, and this painting is a distraction, from challenges we face such as a failing educational system, violent crimes against women and children, which are increasing in brutality. I guess that you have particularly zoomed into the plight of lesbians in South Africa, in light of your own countries’ fight for LGBT rights. Maybe that is why you choose to highlight Pres. Zuma’s own rape trial?

    Truth is we live in a violent society which has been made so by a number of historic issues which have inflicted deep psychosis on the fabric of society. Many of the countries’ problems have been swept under the carpet under the guise of nation-building and reconciliation. That is how I try to make sense of the brutality that has gripped our country. True reconciliation and healing has not happened in South Africa, it did not happen with the Truth and Reconciliation commission and it did not happen with Mandela’s inspirational speeches, during his presidency. And now we are faced with 25 % unemployment rates, brutal and violent crime and a government which is failing us in light of rampant corruption and neglect. And we are failed as women by our justice system. The wheels turn too slowly, the system is overburdened and the jails are too full. We sit with too large a number of our able youth idle, uneducated and numbing their own disappointment and failures with alcohol.

    Is it an entirely hopeless situation? I do not think so, but this is how it is presented in this blog. As though, as though the entire country is running rampant with people killing and raping on every street corner. As ordinary South Africans are we conscious of what is happening? Yes we are! A dialogue and awareness is taking in South Africa of the importance of protecting our freedoms and our young democracy, and how to build a better South Africa from the ground up as well for all who live in it.

    Thank you for bringing this very important cancer of brutality to the fore. I would like to implore you in future to try to do more research on the country. So as not to paint all of our men as rapists -your image of Zulu men as bigoted homophobes is in terrible taste. Be more culturally sensitive in the future.

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  17. Thanks for the article and for the comments.

    This article touches many issues and most of them are talking to me directly. I am a young South African woman, I am UmZulu (Zulu), A Lesbian, a rape victim and a Visual artists who work as a Curator, so i think you get how this article and the issues it touches touch me and i believe half of women in south africa if not every one who believe life can be much better if such thing are directed correctly .

    About our President all i can say is if he really cared about his dignity and of his country he should have thought before he engaged him self in such humiliating and degrading acts.

    As far as “the spear” goes, Brett Murray use his write as a visual person to express his views and concerns about our president. why do we have visual artist if they can’t do just that. why produce art if it won’t shift the paradigm.

    The Comment about the Zulu’s is indeed been generals as Gulu lethu has stated, but also i am a Zulu woman and i know how most of my people can be hard headed. But again u can find that to most cultures. I think what course that in my culture is the way men and women a raised up, men are raised to dominate and defeat there opponents, which worked in the times of stick fitting. Women to be submissive and obey which never worked.

    The Rape issue is Deeply touching. Mostly because myself as many women in South Africa, I am a victim of rape i was only 5 to 6years old when it happened to me and it took me close to 12 years to openly speak about it manly because other who spoke about being raped in my society were cast with awful names.

    The sad issue about corrective rape is that it been fought agains buy many people man and women, Homosexuals and heterosexuals but the law it self is not strong enough in supporting the humans rights act of south africa and it constitution.

    I don’t event know where to begin about the racism issue. I believe South Africa as a country never really dealt with racism properly. what our Government did was to declare South Africa as a rainbow nation but neglected the responsibility of treating everyone who live in it as such. I believe that if the government can focus on meeting the needs of South Africa as a whole not as the country which has the oppressor and the oppressed maybe we will then get to understanding every South African citizen as a human before race.

  18. Thanks Chuck for informing us about the issues in South Africa. To rape a woman is absurdly wrong, but to rape a woman just because she is a lesbian is insane!!!

  19. The portrait of the presidential private parts,
    provoked political uprising.

    The president personally, wasn’t perturbed . . .
    He perceived it as free advertising

  20. Spitologist

    Art has the power to liberate minds from strange chains and constructs. South Africa, which I am citizen of, is a country that is vexed with constructs. The Spear, is one of the sharp pieces of art that attempt to pop a very important bubble. The bubble of constructs and suffocating expression. In our world today, what is constructed as expression is barely a tinge of what and how it is. I mean, we are still living in a time when The Holy Mountain in mainstream television would be a shock to a viewer. And this basically reiterates the necessity and the reality of a new fleet of thinkers and creatives- all of which are growing more and more ready to take charge. Art can build or break nations. This kind, has enormous capacities to build; simply through popping a bubble.

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