June 1, 2012.
It means that children under the age of 16 should not have access to the artwork because it displays nudity.
"The FPB therefore presents to you that a classification rating of '16N' has been decided upon by the classification committee for the artwork by Brett Murray titled The Spear," it said in a statement.
"Any persons or entities wishing to publish and exhibit images and/or replicas of this specific artwork will in future have to put in place mechanisms to regulate access to this piece of art by members of the public below the age of 16."
The painting, which was vandalised last Tuesday, depicted President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
FPB chairperson Thoko Mpumlwana said the complainant had requested the board to give the painting a rating that no one under the age of 18 should have access to it. But the board decided to give it a "16" rating.
"It might also be worth noting that the said content has evoked a mixture of emotions from diverse sections of the populace and exhibitors would be advised to be cognisant of both the manifest and latent reactions that this specific work has drawn."
Comment: This decision boggles the mind. I can't remember any state in recent memory that has poured so much energy into an unflattering depiction of their leader's genitals.
It is clear to me that the FPB has stepped outside of their mandate on this matter. Political pressure has obviously come to bear and the 'goose step' is on.
Throughout their media briefing I kept thinking that the Murray painting was defaced and, in effect, does not now expose a rendition of Zuma's penis.
So what are they restricting/banning then?
The answer lies in this statement from the above report:
Huh?"Any persons or entities wishing to publish and exhibit images and/or replicas of this specific artwork will in future have to put in place mechanisms to regulate access to this piece of art by members of the public below the age of 16."
So "any persons or entities" that have a copy of the Murray painting or "any persons or entities" that will make replicas (could this mean any other depiction of the president's genitals too?) must ensure that kids under 16 do not have access to such depictions/renditions.
Are these folks out of their f*cking minds?
How the hell will the FPB regulate such depictions/renditions on the web? Can we expect apartheid like invasions where the censorship goons will be monitoring where the offending image is displayed?
Well the answer to my question is yes. The assembled brains trust of the FPB said they are monitoring where the image is found and even added that it appeared on 400 websites.
So does this mean that I can expect an interdict telling me (or Blogger/Google in general) to cease and desist from allowing kids under 16 from accessing my post (it has garnered 11 088 hits as of this writing by the way) where the 'offending' image is located?
This raises so many more questions, no?
How will the FPB enforce such a ruling in the era of global web interconnectivity? What is the relevant criminal charge they have in mind?
Has South Africa now become China, or Yemen, or Saudi Arabia where the Internet is censored or access is curtailed for political reasons?
The latter part of my question is really the one that begs an extended answer from the FPB.
Is this p*ss poor excuse for a 16n rating not really a political judgment that goes beyond the purview of what this board is mandated to do?
My thinking is yes on all accounts.
The FPB's decision is unenforceable and will not stand up in court - at the very least there is no precedent in South African law to force a private blogger or a FB user or any other 'person' using social media to put up a gate in the interests of a politicized decision which, in effect, erodes the freedom of expression/speech enshrined in the constitution.
The president may think that his reading of the constitution implies that there is a limit to the freedom of expression/speech in section 16 but that does not mean that he is right.
In fact, he is not. Outside of hate speech section 16 is a guarantee of freedom of speech/expression and a democratic guard against the interference by the state to limit such expression.
This whole membergate affair is nothing more than a creep toward fascist banana-republic conservatism under the essentialized cloak of African culture, traditional values, and personal dignity.
And no, it has very little to do with protecting the innocence of kids under 16 because the central contending issue is about the constitutional right to freedom of expression/speech.
So what then about the Ayanda Mabulu's painting that depicts Zuma's penis in a crutch? Is that painting OK for the under 16 set?
If yes, how then is the Murray painting different except for the fact that the ruling party made a huge political fiasco out of it but continues to ignore Mabulu's 2010 painting?
My political consciousness tells me to resist this fascist creep.
And we are not free.