WATCH | My art is not satanic, it's about greed in organised religion, says matric pupil
A top KwaZulu-Natal private school has come under fire for displaying "satanic" and "demonic" artwork done by one of its students. The artwork by a matric pupil was displayed at Grantleigh High School's end-of-year art exhibition. Some social media users agree, while others argued that the artwork was an artistic expression.
A KwaZulu-Natal north coast matric pupil, whose art is at the centre of a social media outcry for being blasphemous, on Wednesday said the sketches and sculptures were a far cry from the "satanic panic" some people claimed it to be.
The Grantleigh School pupil said he had to release a statement explaining the rationales behind each piece due to the "magnitude of the resultant controversy" after his matric art exhibition was "leaked" without his permission.
The pupil's artwork includes sculptures of heads with horns, paper maché using bible pages and paintings which reference The Last Supper and The Creation of Adam. Some of the paintings use a character who is similar to Ronald McDonald.
"The artworks in this exhibition explore the commercialisation of contemporary organised religion as well as the monetary exploitation of the faithful by greedy individuals who hide behind the guise of the 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 any other product," he explained.
He explained that he used clown Ronald McDonald as a symbol for "the infection of faith with consumer culture".
"Ronald McDonald does not act as a defamation of anyone's personal messiah, instead he acts as symbol of the abuse and the misuse thereof," the pupil said.
He said he did not care what people believe. "I simply want to highlight the potential risks in how they believe it. For a society dominated by an idea-driven culture, the contents of your mind are perhaps the most important and exploitable."
He denounced the claims made against his art on social media and "advised that before anyone speak, that perhaps they think".
A video in which a Richards Bay pastor, Andrew Anderson, lambastes the school for allowing the pupil to display his "satanic" artwork went viral on Monday evening.
In the video, Anderson said he was horrified when he attended a school function and saw on display a pupil's work which he believes is blasphemous.
Anderson said it was unacceptable for the young artist to replace "a clown with Jesus in the Last Supper painting and to make sculptures out of ripped pages of the Bible" displayed at Grantleigh School.
The school is an independent Curro school.
On Wednesday education expert Profess Jonathan Jansen defended the pupil on Facebook.
"Ours is a constitutional democracy and not a theocracy. Artwork is supposed to push the boundaries, to upset, to turn orthodoxy on its head".
"If your Jesus is so small and your faith so threatened by a piece of art, then do some soul-searching," Jansen said.
He said he wished critics would get as infuriated by racism, xenophobia and the devastation of poverty.
"What upsets me as a Christian is the failure of the church to become angry about the message of the Sermon on the Mount," said Jansen.