The matric learner at the centre of the ‘demonic’ artwork debacle at a Curro Grantleigh school near Richard’s Bay in South Africa has issued a statement in response to the social media outrage over his artwork, in which God was replaced by a Ronald McDonald clown, and torn pages from a Bible were used. The outrage was sparked after a fellow student’s parent, Pastor Andrew Anderson, posted an emotional video about how heartbroken he was over what he called ‘demonic’ artwork.
In a message that has been shared on Twitter, the un-named student says:
“It has come to my attention that a non-consensual recording of my matric art exhibition has been leaked and gone viral on social media. It is because of the magnitude of the resultant controversy that l, the artist, am releasing this statement.
“Despite what the parent depicted in the recording purports my artwork to be, the rationales seen nearby each piece in the video quite clearly explain that they are the furthest thing from so-called ‘satanism’.
“For the sake of brevity, I will summarize the concepts explored by my artworks in this single rationale.
“The artworks in this exhibition explore the commercialization of contemporary organized religion as well as the monetary exploitation of the faithful by greedy individuals who hide behind the disguise of a church or similar pious institution.
“They discuss (through the appropriation of religious imagery) how contemporary religion has become superficial.
“Instead of connecting with one’s faith on a deep, seemingly meaningful level and actually having the guts to ask metaphysical questions, many simply consume their religion in the same fashion as they would any other product (hence the use of Ronald McDonald as a symbol for the infection of faith with consumer culture) and it is because of this that they become vulnerable to manipulation at the hands of those who use their office as a religious leader to further their own lives instead of bringing about positive change in the world.
“Ronald McDonald does not act as a defamation of anyone’s personal messiah, instead he acts as a symbol of the abuse and misuse thereof. I do not care what people believe, I simply want to highlight potential risks in how they believe it.
“For in a society dominated by an idea-driven culture, the contents of your mind are perhaps the most important and exploitable.
“In a country (and indeed larger world) that is stricken with poverty and glaring inequalities, who can take those religious leaders who rake in millions of rands of income on a regular basis seriously? Who can honestly say that it is right for certain religious leaders to have gotten away with robbing those who trust them most and not repaying society?
“Televangelism. church-sponsored merchandise and even charging a fee for attendance are all minor examples of the ways in which one contributes to the modern-day business of religion.
“My drawings take the compositions of classical, religious paintings and insert symbols of capitalism therein so as to communicate this sentiment. “The Creation of Adam”, “Alba Madonna”, “The Last Supper”, “The Dead Christ Mourned (‘The Three Maries’)” and “The Last Judgement” are all examples of compositions that I have appropriated.
“However unsettling the imagery may seem. it is designed to provoke thought – to make the viewer question whether they are subject to merciless exploitation or are truly cognizant of what and how they believe.
“All other sentiments expressed in the exhibition stem from this one. Questions of rationality and irrationality, good and evil as well as an introspective reflection on my own metaphysical beliefs are all discussions pursued in my art and are sadly things forgotten and ignored by those too scared by the honesty and power of artistic expression to see my work for what it is – a dissection of contemporary faith.
“However short this statement may be, I hope that anyone concerned enough to read can realize that my art is a far cry from the ‘satanic panic’ some people claim it to be.
“It does not come from a place of malice nor does it necessarily reflect the views of my school.
“Christianity, Scientology, Islam or any one of the multiple thousands of other religions that exist – I really could not care what any one person believes (nor should anyone) but what I do care about is fairness and the sanctity of the human mind. Therefore, it is for that reason that I denounce the completely unfounded claims made against my art on social media and advise that before anyone speak, that they perhaps think.
“I cannot damage that which has already been shattered.”
Many social media commenters have praised the student for standing by their artwork, and articulating their feelings so well. However, not everyone has been impressed. Here is a screenshot of a range of responses on Twitter:
A student at a school in Richard's Bay is in trouble for artwork that his critics (the ACDP, the FF Plus and an upset…
— Pamela Power (@pamelapower) October 23, 2019