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‘Zapoleon Can’t Fall’: Artist’s Depiction Of President Zuma Explains It All


Zapoleon Can’t Fall, Zuma, ZumaMustFall 

President Jacob Zuma has been depicted as megalomaniac leader Napoleon Bonaparte in a painting titled ‘Zapoleon Can’t Fall’.

#ZapoleonCantFall echoes the populist call for #ZumaMustFall and the painting satirically investigates and interrogates the fractured reputation of the South African president.

Based on the renowned painting ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ which features a euphoric Napoleon seated on his rearing stallion – painted by artist Jacques-Louis David in 1801 on request of the King of Spain following the French revolution – this contemporary version shows “Zapoleon’s” plump figure seated on a rearing horse.

Artist Pascale Chandler, who created the piece, explains that President Zuma, or “Zapoleon”, is clad in traditional regalia, including a leopard’s skin, beaded accessories and cultural weapons, with the South African flag and ANC logo randomly plastered on his figure to represent graffiti, propaganda and sloganeering.

“Zapoleon is wearing Nike sneakers – which represent conspicuous consumption and the funky hip-hop American influence on indigenous cultures,” says Chandler, who goes on to explain that the landscape is littered with polka dots to evoke the ruling parties carnivalesque approach to Government.

“The text ‘Nkandla’ positions the horse on the controversial stretch of land plagued by corruption and fraud. The barbed wire tangled between the hooves of the horse references the security upgrade at Nkandla.”

In the painting Napoleon’s army is replaced by the Voortrekker Ossewa, a bleak reminder of the oppressive regime of the Apartheid system.

“There is a Chinese proverb which captures the addictiveness of power: ‘It’s easy to mount a tiger but very hard to get off’. Thus the horse in my painting becomes a metaphor for power and the rider for the abuse thereof. Power has become kidnapped in SA and the current political issues of state capture, corruption and nepotism echo the notion of Napoleon as a revolutionary with megalomaniac tendencies.”

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“History is written by the winners and this work satirizes the vitriolic claims of our country’s leadership against a backdrop of a flawed democratic idealism that has little to celebrate,” concludes Chandler.

This large oil on canvas piece forms part of an exhibition entitled ‘In With The New’ which is taking place at The Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel from 11 August until the end of September.

Exhibiting artists were requested to put their own contemporary spin onto classic paintings and sculptures which stand in art museums around the world

Astrid McLeod, the owner and curator of The Gallery explains that selected artists were invited to submit artworks which are their personal interpretations of renowned pieces. “I wanted to challenge the exhibiting artists to think out the box and love the idea of putting a modern contemporary spin on an old classic,” says McLeod. “I am extremely pleased and excited with Pascal Chandler’s submission ‘Zapoleon Can’t Fall’ and look forward to watching the public’s reaction to this stirring painting.

For more information on The Gallery and In With The New visit www.galleryriebeek.co.za or follow The Gallery on Facebook.

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