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Eusebius McKaiser criticises Zapiro’s withdrawal from planned public debate

A Bantu in My BathroomCould I Vote DA?Run Racist Run

 
Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, has withdrawn from a planned dialogue with Eusebius McKaiser over his controversial recent cartoon depicting NPA head Shaun Abrahams as a monkey.

The dialogue, organised by the Mail & Guardian, was due to take place tomorrow, June 7.

McKaiser says he is “obviously disappointed” but that he respects Zapiro’s decision.

However, he adds: “Zapiro apparently doesn’t think the criticism he received was anything more than a temporary storm in a Twitter teacup. I think he is wrong to judge the very genuine and substantive engagement with his work as that fleeting and thin. And that’s frankly an indictment of him.

“I’d also have thought that if he regarded the criticism as mere social media posturing then there should not be any trepidation about a conversation in which you can explain in part why the criticism isn’t salient.”

Read McKaiser’s full statement, as shared on Facebook:

Please note that the event with Jonathan Shapiro that was meant to be held tomorrow at Gibs (Tuesday 7th June) and which was being organised by the Mail and Guardian has been cancelled because Jonathan (Zapiro) no longer wishes to be in conversation about the cartoon in which Shaun Abrahams was depicted as a monkey.

I’m obviously disappointed because many people – many of you – have already committed to attend, sponsors had come on board to pay for the cost of the event, the events team of the Mail and Guardian has put in a huge effort including the editor Verashni Pillay.

But I respect Zapiro’s decision to not continue with the event.

I briefly thought of doing some alternative event in that space or the same theme in the absence of Zapiro. But that would be inappropriate: There is absolutely NO REASON why black people need to explain and deconstruct white liberal missteps in the absence of white people doing that kind of private and public work with or without black interlocutors. It would simply perpetuate one of the popular myths that blacks are uniquely placed to explain all things to do with race, racism, racist tropes and weak aesthetic choices made by self-styled progressive artists.

Such a public discussion therefore needs to feature someone like Zapiro alone, or at most in conversation with a critic. But black people have no duty to appear in public performing soliloquies about whiteness.

There is something distasteful about the scenario in which Zapiro is chilling in Cape Town and we take time off to make sense of the impact of his artistic choices on us. So it doesn’t make sense for me to continue either. A dialogue requires two or more people to be committed to examine their beliefs, attitudes, choices, habits and professional praxis.

Zapiro initiated the process that led to the event being put together when he challenged me to a public debate. I accepted.

I proposed to the editor that we not have a debate – which is an inherently adversarial format – and instead to have a conversation. Because I thought the latter is more conducive to pursuing the issues in honest and interesting detail, and unravelling the many themes that cannot be unravelled in a radio interview or even in a newspaper column. I also urged this format because I know Zapiro well. He is thoughtful and quiet and reflective. Not recalcitrant. And I was certainly not imprudent enough to engineer a verbal war. That is for high school debating.

I do not believe the issues around the cartoon and the criticism that the cartoon occasions have been adequately thrashed out. And the town hall format of engagement is a wonderfully underused format in our country for making dialogical and discursive progress.

Zapiro apparently doesn’t think the criticism he received was anything more than a temporary storm in a Twitter teacup. I think he is wrong to judge the very genuine and substantive engagement with his work as that fleeting and thin. And that’s frankly an indictment of him. I’d also have thought that if he regarded the criticism as mere social media posturing then there should not be any trepidation about a conversation in which you can explain in part why the criticism isn’t salient.

Friends, be careful of calling for debates if you’re not willing to in fact meet your interlocutor in the event that they accept even when they propose a conversation rather than debate.

Apologies to those of you who looked forward to genuine and honest public engagement. There will be future opportunities.

Book details

  • A Bantu in My Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics by Eusebius McKaiser
    EAN: 9781920434373
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
 

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