THE NAKED MAN OF STEEL
In 2006, Angus Taylor, a South African sculptor, created a giant carbon steel statue of a naked black man (Froud, 2011). The artwork was named ‘Positive’ (Fig 1). The origin and meaning behind this name will be revealed further on in the essay. The statue caused varied reactions in three different locations, namely on the campus of the University of Potchefstroom, in front of a Strand apartment block and finally a farm in the middle of the Karoo. There were some harsh reactions towards the artwork from sections of the White community and some of the Black community. These reactions led to issues regarding the right to freedom of expression from the artist and the public.
Statues are generally erected and displayed in only one place, where they remain. In the case of ‘Positive,’ it was moved three times because of adverse public reaction. The statue was first erected outside a building of the University of Potchefstroom (Barnard, 2013). Taylor paid R100 000 to have it placed on the campus (Peters, 2006). He said, “One could not before 1994 place a sculpture of a naked black man on the campus in Potchefstroom,” (Taylor 2014) and in celebration of the restrictions being lifted Taylor decided to name the statue ‘Positive’ (Taylor 2014). He stated “’Positive’ is an anti-monument, a large, raw sculpture without any pompous propaganda or agenda” (Taylor 2014). However the Potchefstroom students reacted by painting the old South African flag on it and thereafter tied an apron around its pelvic region (Peters, 2006).
The statue was then removed and taken to Grande Provence, a gallery in Franschhoek, where it was bought by a Belgian art collector, Willy Woestyn (Barnard, 2013). Woestyn is also an architect and in 2006 he designed a building in Strand called ‘Cape Sands’ (Peters, 2006). Being a patron of the arts, he said: “When I designed this building, I created a specific space for a statue. I searched for the ideal creation for a year and when I saw this piece at an exhibition in Franschhoek, I knew it was the one - it’s beautiful. I don’t care what people say, it’s here to stay” (Peters, 2006). Woestyn had no concerns as to how it would affect the public, but he realised that the moment it was erected, it caused a stir (Woestyn 2014). One of the complaints was the size of the artwork - 2.6m high and weighing in at 750kg (Peters, 2006). Some of the criticisms were:
"It is disgusting. If the owner likes it so much he should put it in his lounge” (Peters, 2006)
“Why must we Christians be subjected to this?" (Peters, 2006)
"This is a conservative town and by tomorrow it will probably have underpants or a robe on it" (Leppan, 2006)
The latter comment proved to be an apt forecast, because a few days later it had a nappy tied around its genitals (Peters, 2006). Taylor said, “The groin was modelled to the proportions of the David statue by Michelangelo which in proportion is relatively small“ (Taylor 2014). This quote...