Ayanda Mabulu’s pop-up-thing-artwork at last weekend’s Joburg Art Fair, in which Nelson Mandela (RIP) is depicted as a Nazi on a swastika flag, is so-so as an artwork — but the ham-fisted reaction turned it into a complex event. In 2013, the last time Mabulu offended people at the fair, the organisers removed his depiction of Jacob Zuma crushing a Marikana miner’s head. Renowned photographer David Goldblatt threatened to pull out in response, and the work was displayed again. But Goldblatt died this year and was unable to save the fair’s bacon by giving it an alibi to offend. If fascism is part of a metonymic chain at the end of which is any forceful behaviour, Mabulu made a startling point. So sanctified has Mandela become that people are prepared to go to any end to protect his image, including the direct violence of ripping down a flag, or the systemic violence of reaching for the rule book.

The spurious rule employed this time by the Joburg Art Fair was that the "work" was...

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