President Robert Mugabe was deeply touched by a statue in his own image, but Zimbabweans on social media were less flattering. On Sept. 10 two new statues of the president were unveiled at Mugabe’s official residence in the capital Harare. A moved Mugabe asked citizens to show gratitude to artists, instead Zimbabweans mercilessly mocked the largest of the statues.
“To see oneself reproduced this way and that way—replicated—it’s something that should be more appreciated than just by saying thank you,” the 92-year-old president said about the “wonderful art.” Social media users were not as charitable.
The 3.8-meter (over 12 feet) sculpture of the long time ruler with his fist in the air and his facial features exaggerated was mocked, calling it cartoonish and amateurish. But the artist Dominic Benhura defended his 3-ton artwork in an interview with the state-owned Herald newspaper, saying the public did not understand the abstract style of the piece that took him six months to produce.
“That sculpture was never meant to look exactly as the president’s image. I do not do exact images,” said Benhura. “I wanted the president to see what I do and if I had changed my style it would not be sincere.”
But the mockery may have more to do with the public’s disapproval of Mugabe than the subjectivity of taste. Public discontent over the failed economy has fueled regular protest recently, with Zimbabweans calling for Mugabe’s 36-year rule to end. During protests young people ripped off the signs of streets named after Mugabe.