The phrase “culture wars” is derived from the German word Kulturkampf, which literally means “a struggle for the control of the culture.” A culture war (or culture wars) is a struggle between two sets of conflicting cultural values.  The Controversy sparked by Brett Murray’s The Spear painting has dropped a match on a cultural haystack, with many people proclaiming “it’s not in my culture” and therefore it is wrong.  The knee jerk reaction has seen people saying “that’s a “disgusting” artwork”, without acknowledging the probability that though an individual might be disgusted by the artwork, that alone does not make the artwork disgusting.  In American usage the term culture war is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal.

The only thing PM hates as much as a god dam conservative is a god dam liberal, but PM is getting side tracked .Is South African entering into a culture war? PM has taken the liberty of generously cutting and pasting from internet sources, some history about varies culture wars and has included some artworks that have sparked controversy.

“The conservative climate of the United States during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush set the stage for a series of controversies over the place of art in American culture. Many of these battles pitted members of the religious right against artists whose work they considered indecent, subversive, or blasphemous. Others were fought over issues of racism and patriotism, and some involved works of art long viewed as classics by the public at large. Inevitably most of these “culture wars” became political struggles, with proponents of “decency” and “moral values” butting heads with defenders of artistic expression and the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Click here and here for sources.

Sounds familiar hey?

Andres Serrano’s photograph called Piss Christ, an image of Jesus Christ on the cross submerged in the artist’s own urine, was damaged “beyond repair.”  Other photographs were damaged and museum guard’s lives were threatened.  Read here . Much of the moral indignation  has been articulated in ways, very similar to the current situation.

Christopher Ofili and one of his paintings, “The Holy Virgin Mary, a depiction of the Virgin Mary, was at issue in a lawsuit between the mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art when it was exhibited there in 1999 as a part of the “Sensation” exhibit. The painting depicted a Black Madonna surrounded by images from blaxploitation movies and close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines, and elephant dung. These were formed into shapes reminiscent of the cherubim and seraphim commonly depicted in images of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. Red Grooms showed his support of the artist by purchasing one of Ofili’s paintings in 1999, even after Giuliani famously exclaimed, “There’s nothing in the First Amendment that supports horrible and disgusting projects!” Thanks Wikipedia for the above cut and paste.

Back to South Africa 2012, we have lawsuits, violence and the artwork The Spear vandalised. Cosatu members being called  to march on the gallery. Yes, Panga Management thinks the Culture Wars have begun, and all because of a penis. PM would feel bored, if it was not so amusing in its predictability.

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