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E-tolls are sucking the life out of us – artist

Reaction to e-toll artwork overwhelming.

E-tolls, taxes, levies and licence fees are sucking the life out of South Africans, says Mike Woolfson, digital artist and owner of MBW Art galleries.

Woolfson was explaining what drove him to create an artwork illustrating this sentiment. The artwork shows an e-toll gantry against a background of gathering dark clouds. One person hangs from the gantry and others are stumbling away from it in a zombie-like state.

“The reaction to the artwork is overwhelming,” says Woolfson. People stop outside his galleries in Bryanston, Johannesburg and Lynnwood, Pretoria. They come inside and want to discuss the painting. Sixteen of the limited edition of 50 prints have already been sold.

Woolfson does not as a norm revert to social commentary in his artwork and usually names each of them. In this case he felt very strongly that e-tolls were introduced in a dictatorial way not befitting a democracy and decided to reflect his feelings in art.

“Zombies are currently very topical and I applied them to e-tolls. I did not use any blood on them, because they have been sucked dry.”

He did not name the painting and has been amazed by the names people come up with. “One called it Death of a Motorist, another ‘The most expensive gallows in the world.’

Woolfson says the artwork reflects his view of where South Africa is going. He says it does not make sense to introduce the e-toll system while the economy is in “the worst depression in modern history” and the cost of collection is totally disproportionate.

He says at the very least e-tolls should have been eased in over a period to lessen the shock for motorists.

Over a period of time the financial burden of legislation, levies and taxes introduced by the state is becoming unbearable for the individual, he says. Often people just pay up to avoid interaction with a dysfunctional bureaucracy, he says. “We become zombies of the state!”

Asked why people would pay up to R2 000 for the print, since it is hardly a beautiful and kiddy-friendly piece the average person would hang in his lounge, Woolfson says most of the buyers are private individuals and a few are corporates. “I don’t know where they hang it, but it is definitely a great conversation piece.”

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