The Africanists

Insights. Comments. Thoughts. Analysis. Africa.

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My son’s interest in my penis, and what it means for African culture

A few but significant lies about African tradition and culture made news headlines in May and June in South Africa.

This is not, of course, the first time personal shame, prejudice and anxieties about children and what they can’t see, hear, or know have been submitted as a defining part of African culture. Or any culture. However, this time the anxieties were about penises and their cultural status. Children seeing their father’s penis and what it all means in African culture. But do beware of modern African primitivists. They come in all shapes, colours, sexes, and genders.

For readers not familiar with the big penis story, it started with Brett Murray’s painting, The Spear, which features a figure that resembles the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) and South African President Jacob Zuma with his cock exposed.
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Black men and women are the most post-modern subjects of all

The Spear, a satirical art piece by Brett Murray, caused controversy in May 2012 in South Africa

References to African traditions and culture in the context of the controversy over The Spear, the painting portraying South African President Jacob Zuma with his penis showing by pop-satirist Brett Murray, brought back to mind one of the relatively big media stories of 2011 in South Africa.

That other story was the the story about the ‘over-supply of coloureds’ triggered by the comments made by Mr Jimmy Manyi, President of the Black Management Forum and current Head of Government Communication and Information Services.

Like the controversy evoked by The Spear, the ‘coloured over-supply’ story went big because of the central actors involved in the story. In addition to Manyi, the other central protagonists involved in the event, were the minister in the presidency Mr Trevor Manuel, and Mr Paul Ngobeni, at the time legal adviser to the minister of defence. {read more…}