Are SA’s cultural institutions trying to get rid of Kannemeyer and Botes?
The duo behind Bitterkomix is being stymied by galleries, universities, you name it. But why?
Towards the end of 2019, I had an opportunity to speak to artist Conrad Botes of Bitterkomix fame. His attempts to release a new book, The Erotic Drawings of Conrad Botes, were being thwarted.
While he’d had more than his fair share of state censorship at the tail-end of apartheid, he’d recently encountered a new culture of censoriousness that seemed to be suppressing his work. It wasn’t censorship in the traditional sense of a direct affront to the freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution. Rather, this was a vaguer but nevertheless pervasive type of suppression that worked through “strange channels”, as he put it, but was proving alarmingly effective.
He first got in touch when the book had already been rejected by four printers and the fifth was about to pull the plug. Not publishers, mind you, but actual print factories, which had turned down the job because they did not want to be associated with the book’s content. “Moral issues,” explained Botes wearily when I interviewed him at the time of the book’s eventual launch, by which I took him to mean hypocrisy or fear, or both...