South Africa, Life, etc

Letter to the Editor: Breyten Breytenbach’s anger with UCT

By Daily Maverick 5 April 2016

Dissident poet and artist Breyten Breytenbach, who spent seven years in prison for high treason in the 1970s, has written a letter conveying his “sentiment of disgust” at UCT’s decision to take down artworks and place them in safekeeping.

Dear Sir,

At the risk of being one of the “naughty children in class who do not know how to behave”, I nevertheless feel it incumbent upon me to react to the removal of one of my paintings from public display at the University of Cape Town. Please allow me to do so.

Had it not been for Daily Maverick/GroundUp report, I would not have known that a work of mine is involved. (There must be more. For instance – if memory serves me right – somewhere up there is a painting depicting Goya at the time when he was producing his black series in the house of the deaf, showing a pair of red hands, and with the inscription, “this does not bear looking at”. Surely a prime example of offensive political incorrectness!)

In the light of the moral probity and civic courage of the decision-making instances of the university lowering their frocks – and what an admirable mess of crap emanating from the spokesperson quoted by you! – and the ethical, cultural, artistic and common garden variety illiteracy of the “protesters” (who probably did not even have to raise their obtuseness for the authorities to turn their submissive backsides to them), I really wish to make it known that I do not want to be associated with the University of Cape Town in any shape or form. Verily, this light of higher learning blinds me.

Unfortunately, the paintings in question no longer belong to me. If they did, I’d have withdrawn them long since.

I have no means of contacting Max Price or any of his stalwart minions directly to convey my sentiment of disgust, and can only hope for this missive to reach them through you. And while at it, I wish to thank them for the decency of having informed me about the incident, and the sterling bravery of their intellectual steadfastness…


Breyten Breytenbach



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