07/09/2010 05:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nelson Mandela Autopsy Painting Sparks Outrage (VIDEO)

A new painting that portrays Nelson Mandela as a corpse undergoing an autopsy has sparked outrage from the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa's ruling party.

The painting, essentially a pastiche of Rembrandt's 17th-century masterpiece "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp," shows the iconic former South African president lying naked on a table, while Nkosi Johnson, an AIDS activist who died at the age of 12, performs an autopsy. The table is surrounded by famous onlookers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former presidents FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki, and politicians Helen Zille and Trevor Manuel.

ANC members have condemned the work as "witchcraft," and argue that the painting's portrayal "strips Mandela of his dignity." As party spokesman Jackson Mthembu tells The Guardian:

"In African society it is a foreign act of ubuthakathi (bewitch) to kill a living person and this so-called work of art ... is also racist. It goes further by violating Tat' uMandela's dignity by stripping him naked in the glare of curious onlookers, some of whom have seen their apartheid ideals die before them. That is why we are more shocked and disgusted this so called art that depicts a dead Madiba [Mandela's clan name]."

Mthembu also slammed South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian for carrying the painting on its front page. Meanwhile, Johannesburg-based artist Yiull Damasco, 41, has defended his work. As News24 reported, the artist wrote on his website:

Mandela "is just a man, the same as those viewing him, the same as you and I. Mr Mandela made decisions in his life that enabled people to see him as they do. The collection of viewers [is] in a position in their lives to make decisions that will enable people to see them in a similar manner."

You can see the image here.

WATCH: Report about the painting