“That guy made a lot of money with that painting,” Gertruida says, “and he got people talking. Maybe that’s what all art should do?”
“But the detail, Gertruida! Did he really have to add all that detail to the painting? Wouldn’t a small little loincloth look better?”
“Yes, maybe,” Vetfaan has an envious look, “but that wouldn’t have covered that whole thing. He’d have needed a beach towel.”
“I find it disgusting.” Precilla shivers at the thought of the picture. “I mean, he is the President, after all. How would you guys feel if they painted you like that?”
“He would have needed a bigger canvas,” Kleinpiet says without blushing. “Bold strokes and lots of paint…and a bigger canvas.”
“I don’t know, you guys. At my age one tends to, well, be less of a man than in your twenties. You know, you lose hair and sight and hearing as you get older. The rest of the body seems to follow suit. In the end, I think old men are a sad reminder of the youth they once had.”
“But the prez is seventy already, Servaas. He’s the same age as you, give or take a few years. Are you saying the painting is a fake?”
“Sure thing. If you believe the painting, he should have bruises on his knees. No, believe me, the painter used his imagination to portray a different aspect of the prez’s personality. It could say something about priorities, or nepotism, or even corruption. I don’t know, but I think the artist was trying to tell us something.”
Kleinpiet draws the outline of South Africa on the counter top. “You mean – that artist wants to make the public aware of what the president has done to the country?”
“Well, that is a relief,” Precilla smiles for the first time, “I thought it had to do with, you know, er … the physical side of things. If it’s only a metaphor, I can live with it. I won’t buy the painting though – it’s much too graphic.”
“But that means he did the whole country, Precilla, not just his particular preference for a specific occasion. That’s worse, I think.”
“We’ve been done, as you call it, since forever. Tell me,” and here Gertruida pauses for effect, “tell me which government, for as long as you can remember, has had the true interest of the people at heart. It’s always a power game, that’s all.”
“Then we’ll commission our local artist to paint the world’s leaders all in a similar fashion. A huge canvas, with all of them lined up next to each other. It’ll cause an international sensation!” Vetfaan smiles lewdly at Kleinpiet. “You can do it, can’t you?”
“Nope. What do I do with Merkel and the Queen? You can’t do this type of art with ladies.”
“Okay then. Only the men.”
And so Kleinpiet draws them all. The presidents of the modern world, all next to each other; with our president in the position of honour, right in the middle. He covers the entire counter top with his unique style, painting with beer froth.
Boggel waits for the last little bit of detail before he takes the cloth to wipe it all off.
“I like my bar the way it is, thank you. Politics, and all the stuff that dangles from it, do not belong here. While we know artists have a licence to portray life as they see fit, we in Rolbos have a certain dignity of our own. I’m not worried about the president’s sense of honour, but we won’t gravitate to his level, will we? So, how’s about a round of Cactus Jack, then we can talk about really important things – like the drought or who’s going to fill up the pothole in Voortrekker Weg?”
At least, Gertruida muses, Rolbos won’t get swept along by the events in the rest of the world. While everybody out there gossips and sniggers about a silly painting, Boggel will force them back to reality. The most important question will pop up sooner rather than later.
Who will pay for the next round?
Now, that is a situation really worth debating. At least Rolbos has priorities when it involves important stuff. They know you can solve many more problems with Cactus Jack, than with dangling objects from an Armani suit