Art has been used often to criticise South African president Jacob Zuma, but using the image of the nation's iconic Nelson Mandela has not gone down well.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who became the country's first president after the end of apartheid in 1994, is the country's national icon.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who became the country's first president after the end of apartheid in 1994, is the country's national icon. (TRT World and Agencies)

South Afrıca's President Jacob Zuma has been under fire from many quarters during the past few years, but the latest artistic protest against the man many say is ruining the country has even left Zuma's critics stunned.

The latest painting by artist Ayanda Mabulu explicitly showing the country's national icon Nelson Mandela being sodomised by a laughing President Jacob Zuma has sparked outrage.

The Johannesburg Citizen newspaper quoted the artist as saying that his painting was showing that Zuma had violated the country.

Mabulu told Eyewitness News, a popular South African radio news channel, "The message in the painting is simple and clear: the country and everything we fought for before '94 and post-'94, is constantly and continuously being raped by this rapist president of ours."

However, the painting has not gone down well, with Mabulu being sharply criticised on social media.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation responded on Friday in a press release, saying that it had noted the public outrage and that it appreciated that the public had been offended.

"The Foundation would like to express that it respects Mr Mabulu's right to freedom of expression. We, however, find this painting distasteful," the statement read.

The African News Agency reported that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party had described the painting as being "grotesque, inflammatory and of bad taste."

"No matter what message he may want to send to President Zuma and the African National Congress, we view his work as crossing the bounds of rationality to degradation, exploiting the craft of creative art for nefarious ends."

"More concerning is his callous abuse of our icon, the late founding president of democratic South Africa."

It is not the first time that Mabulu has raised the ire of Zuma's supporters, with previous paintings showing the president's genitalia.

He is also not the only artist to have painted pictures showing the president's genitalia. In 2010, artist Brett Murray's painting "The Spear" sparked outrage.

It depicted Zuma in a pose similar to that of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, except unlike the Lenin painting by soviet poster artist Viktor Semyonovich Ivanov, Zuma's genitalia are exposed.

Murray's painting was vandalised when it was displayed in the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The theme of South Africa being raped by the president is not new. Earlier this month, well-known cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro published a cartoon showing Zuma and a member of the Gupta family raping South Africa. That cartoon also sparked outrage among Zuma's supporters.

There have long been allegations that the Gupta family have held sway over Zuma and benefited financially from their association with the South African president.

It is the first time that Mandela has featured in any art form in protest against the rule of President Jacob Zuma.

Mandela became the country's first black president in 1994, following the formal end of apartheid, during which the country was ruled by a white minority government. Mandela, who died in 2013, is revered by both supporters of the ANC and other parties.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies