'My God is no clown' - Pastor fumes over 'demonic' art project at Curro school
"My God is no clown," said a choked up parent of a pupil at Richards Bay's Grantleigh Curro school as he filmed an art exhibition that he considers "demonical".
"It felt like we were crucifying Jesus all over again," said Ballito Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) pastor Andrew Anderson in the video he filmed and posted on social media.
A matric pupil's interpretation of Italian renaissance painter and inventor Leonard da Vinci's Last Supper had him almost in tears, with Jesus depicted as a clown as he breaks bread for the last time before his crucifixion, with dollar signs painted on the lintel behind him.
The disciples are people and animals, with hats, sunglasses and some with horns.
Torn strips of the Bible feature in another work.
Panning over images that included a work inspired by Michelangelo's Renaissance work The Creation of Adam painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Anderson was overcome with emotion at the image of a clown leaning out of the cloud for the iconic finger touch imagery.
He said he loved the school, which his children attend, but when he walked into the exhibition for an awards ceremony in the hall, he was "very upset".
"Everything is demonic powers, demonic things being displayed."
He showed busts with horns growing out of their heads and shoulders, with one wearing a collage of torn up pieces of Chronicles, a chapter in the Bible on its torso.
In another, a clown has Jesus by the neck.
Anderson called for protests at the school whose ethos is "To God be the Glory".
"What does this teach our children about the greatness of God?"
Speaking to News24, he said he just could not let it go, and spoke to a senior teacher about it who agreed with him.
"She said she will have to get a spiritual leader to come and pray at the school hall."
However, he received the opposite reaction from the headmaster, and that was when he decided to go public.
"You can feel the demons, you can feel the presence of this evil spirit," Anderson said of the exhibition space.
"I thought this can't be. This can't be right."
He also believes that works like these contribute to societal problems such as murder, and divisions, and will also cause seemingly inexplicable problems at the school.
Anderson begged concerned people to raise their concerns with the school. His video has spread quickly.
He was of the view that there would have been strong backlash had the painting been about Islam.
Some people applauded the school for allowing the pupil's work.
But others were on Anderson's side. At 547 comments and counting on the school's Facebook page, the debate was intense over whether the school should have allowed it.
The school told News24 in a statement that it welcomed any comment on the pupil's work.
However, it asked that the work not be uploaded to social media without the school's consent because "the project had to be understood within the context of the assigned theme".
The artist's name was not immediately available, but the Zululand Observer reported that the pupil explained the artwork "demonstrates organised religion's preoccupation with making money and its exploitation of those with blind faith".
It reported that he said one of the pieces was symbolic of the lack of choice children have when born into and raised in a particular faith.
"Curro are cognisant of the allegations made on social media and the matter is currently subject to an internal investigation," the school said in a statement.
"Curro reiterates that comments made about the school, the artwork and the learner are not an accurate reflection of our school and the situation referred to, and we reserve the right to withhold comment until the internal investigation has concluded."
It said the group does adopt a Christian ethos, with the values of the Christian faith upheld.
"Curro accordingly welcomes, values and respects members of staff and learners from different faiths, with their accompanying views."
But while welcoming comment and discussion, it would not "condone cyber bullying, religious intolerance, hate speech, derogatory language, misrepresentation and comments reflecting negatively on the Curro brand on any social media pages".
This is not the first time art has caused a furore in South Africa with a Brett Murray painting of former president Jacob Zuma getting many supporters riled up over The Spear which depicted genitalia.
Artist Ayanda Mabulu has also stared down controversy over his paintings.