NEW YORK, NY.- Since Apartheids fall in 1994, South African photography has exploded from the grip of censorship onto the world stage. A key figure in this movement is Zwelethu Mthethwa, whose work addresses the economic and political realities of present-day South Africa. Zwelethu Mthethwa, (Aperture, March 2010) is the artists long-awaited first comprehensive monograph, providing an overview of his work to date.
Working in urban and rural industrial landscapes, Mthethwa documents multiple aspects of South Africafrom domestic life and the environment, to landscape and labor issues. His stunning large-scale portraits often portray rural immigrants on the margins of South African cities, revealing the efforts of his subjects to maintain their cultural identities through their choices in clothing, and the decoration of their dwellings and places of worship. The artists later work also addresses the evolving relation of South Africa to neighboring nations and to the global context.
Working collaboratively with his subjects, Mthethwa employs a fresh approach marked by color and a dynamic exchange between the photographer and the photographed. His singular oeuvre challenges both traditional conventions of African commercial studio photography and Western documentary work, marking a transition away from the typical exoticized images that encapsulate what curator Okwui Enwezor refers to as afro-pessimism.
Zwelethu Mthethwa (born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 1960) received his BFA from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, a then whites-only university he entered under special ministerial consent. In 1989, he earned a masters in imaging arts while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York. Mthethwa has had over thirty-five solo exhibitions in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and Switzerland, and has been featured in numerous group shows, including the 2005 Venice Biennial;