Monday, January 24, 2011

Art and Tyranny

Today's NYT has a story of interest for those of us who "watch" unhinged despots like North Korea's Kim Jong-il and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, or in this case, both.  Some might be interested to learn that the two countries share more than just insane, murderous tyrants at the helm whose "socialist" policies have ruined their economies, enabled by greedy, corrupt political cadres. 

For instance, there's the Joshua Nkomo statue erected in Bulawayo.  Nkomo was Mugabe's chief political rival in the early days after the end of white rule in then-Rhodesia--but Mugabe's ZANU Party won the elections in 1980, and that was that.  The two rival leaders (in broad terms, ZANU represented the Shona peoples, and Nkomo's ZAPU faction were Matabele) started off all friendly, but Nkomo was variously imprisoned or exiled during the Gukurahundi Massacres of Ndebeles, finally folding his machinery into Mugabe's ZAPU in 1987, leaving Zim a one-party state. 

So, last year, Mugabe goes and erects a statue of Nkomo like they were best friends.  This naturally teed off a lot of Ndebeles and Nkomo supporters whose families were massacred by Mugabe's special forces, the so-called 5th Brigade, from about 1983 to 1987.  

What's this got to with DPRK, you may be asking.  Two things: first, Mugabe's 5th Brigade were actually trained in North Korea starting in 1980, while Kim Il-sung was still in charge; second, it turns out the statue was actually manufactured in North Korea, according to reports

And frankly, it doesn't have a lot to do with the NYT article, except by way of background.  The article does mention another interesting, or chilling, episode in the relations between these two rogue nations:
Before the World Cup in South Africa in June, a minister in Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, invited the North Korean soccer team, on behalf of Zimbabwe’s tourism authority, to base itself in Bulawayo before the games began, a gesture that roused a ferocious outcry. After all, it was North Korea that trained and equipped the infamous Fifth Brigade, which historians estimate killed at least 10,000 civilians in the Ndebele minority between 1983 and 1987.

“To us it opened very old wounds,” Thabitha Khumalo, a member of Parliament, said of the attempt to bring the North Korean team to the Ndebele heartland. “We’re being reminded of the most horrible pain. How dare they? Our loved ones are still buried in pit latrines, mine shafts and shallow graves.”
The North Korean team did not come to Zim, and was humiliated in its three games, scoring one goal while giving up 12.  But don't blame the coach, Dear Leader was there via invisible phone to give advice. 
Anyway, the article.  It concerns mainly an art exhibit at the National Gallery in Bulawayo (the nation's second city) that is now a crime scene, because it depicts the Gukurahundi on numerous large canvases, complete with "recurrent, menacing images of a man in oversize glasses — Mr. Mugabe."

By way of contrast between the lunatic sadistic tyrant that is Robert Mugabe and the lunatic sadistic Stalinist tyrant that is Kim Jong-il, the latest art controversy from the peninsular gulag is: which glorious leader Kim is being beatified in this painting?

From Foreign Policy
Is it Great Leader Kim Il-sung, or [Adjective] Leader-to-be Kim Jong-un, for whose ascendancy fifty South Korean citizens have been sacrificed so far.  (I'm counting 46 from the ROKS Cheonan and 4 from the Yeongpyeongdo shelling.)  For North Koreans unable to make the trek to the Rajin Art Gallery in the country's northeast, what with freezing and starving to death and all, the government is helpfully handing out his portrait:
According to sources, there are variations of Kim Jong-un’s portrait that are being handed out: a portrait of the son in a military suit is to be given to those in the military, while there are versions with Kim standing in an suit and another featuring the young successor examining documents. Representative members of North Korea’s Workers’ Party received their copies of Kim Jong-un’s portrait on Sept. 28 during the party’s rare convention. A source in Ryanggang Province said teams of regional officials had been formed to inspect the status of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il portraits in North Korean homes ahead of Kim Jong-un’s portrait distribution.
Look at this site of Kim Jong-il looking at things:


Tanner Brown said...

Great writing. You need a "do" in 5th graph, 1st sentence.
So do you read (mentioned in that FP guy's bio line)?

Lalique said...

Im discovering Korean & Japanese blogs
visiting from Turkey
welcome friend