Zwelethu Mthethwa (South African, born )

Zwelethu Mthethwa (South African, b.1960) is a South African photographer and painter, born in 1960 in Burban, South Africa. Mthewthwa studied art and painting at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. Upon receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, he studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology receiving a master’s degree in Imaging Arts in 1989. After returning to South Africa and spending some time working in business, he taught photography and drawing at the Michaelis School. He left the position in 1999 to focus full time on his artwork. Rejecting the austere, journalistic black and white photography of South African photographers like David Goldblatt and Roger Ballen. Mthethwa joined a new wave of post-apartheid photographers who chose to work in color, which, he said “provided a greater emotional range.” In the mid-2000s, he became known internationally for his richly colored photographs of coal miners and migrant workers in the South African fields. In 2010, he exhibited Inner Views at the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, which showcased work from three series that concentrate on interior shots of people in their homes. The emphasis on the abstract and graphic patterns found in the subjects’ homes signaled a direction reminiscent of African portraiture such as the photography of Malick Sidibé and Samuel Fosso. Included in the Studio Museum show was a series entitled Common Ground, which juxtaposed portraits Mthethwa took in 2008, in a New Orleans still affected by Hurricane Katrina, with photographs of Cape Town interiors that had endured wildfires. The images were displayed without specifying the location, stressing the universality of human suffering in both places.

Zwelethu Mthethwa has had over 35 solo exhibitions worldwide and participated in the 2005 Venice Biennale and the 2004 Gwangju Biennale, and in the subject of a monograph published by Aperture.


Born in Durban, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Simon Gerson Prize for the most promising art student (UCT)
Diploma in Fine Arts, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Cultural Organiser for Department of Education and Training
Assistant Co-ordinator Children’s Project for Community Arts Project
MFA, Imaging Art, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Customer Projects Co-ordinator for Truworths
Bertrams V.O. Award Indigenous People
City of Abijan Prize, Biennale (Ivory Coast)
Lecturer of Photography and Drawing, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Nominated for the Vita Awards
Lecturer of Photography and Drawing at Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT
Elected on to the Association for Visual Executive Committee
Elected on to the Association for Visual Executive Committee
Research Associate at Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT
Lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa


Zwelethu Mthethwa - Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City, NY (solo)
Good Health: Impilo Engcono - Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town
Zwelethu Mthethwa - Everard Read Gallery - Johannesburg, Johannesburg (solo)
The Progress of Love - The Menil Collection, Houston, TX
Particulars / Third Room - Christine König Galerie, Vienna
OC Collects - Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach
Gaze - The Changing Face of Portrait Photography - Istanbul Modern, Istanbul
The Dwelling Life of Man - Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort
Room In My Head: Staging Psychological Spaces - Gallery 1600 - Savannah College of Art and Design SCAD, Atlanta, GA
La La La Human Steps: A Selection from the Collection of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen - Istanbul Modern, Istanbul
Environment and Object - Recent African Art - Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, VT
New works - Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town (solo)
Implemented Environments - Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town
Summer Show - Brundyn + Gonsalves, Cape Town
Environment and Object - Recent African Art - VCUarts Anderson Gallery, Richmond, VA
The Horse: September 2011 Multiple Views of a Singular Beast - Everard Read Gallery - Johannesburg, Johannesburg
Biennale di Venezia - 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, Venice
Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography - Victoria & Albert Museum - V&A, London (England)
Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950 - Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
Environment and Object Recent African Art - The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
Contemporary Gladiators and Brickworkers, Galería Oliva Arauna, Madrid, Spain (solo)
Inner Views Studio Museum, Harlem, New York, USA (solo)
Is it our goal...? And Other Related Issues, Jelllicoe, Johannesburg, South Africa (solo)
Africa Objetos y Sujetos, Centro Cultural Cajastur, Oviedo, Spain (group)
Km 89 Colección CGAC, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo, Vigo, Spain (group)
8 Fotografías 4 continentes, Hotel París Diputación de Huelva, Festival de Huelva, Huelva, Spain (group)
Notes From The Empire/Aufzeichnungen aus dem Empire, cur. by C. Mennicke, Kunsthaus Dresden, Germany
planet africa, Galerie Hengevoss-Duerkop, Germany
Christine Koenig Galerie, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Recent Work, Interior and Sugarance Series, Galería Oliva Arauna, Madrid, Spain (solo)
Defining Moments in Photograph from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (group)
Existencias, Musac, Leon, Spain (group)
Goldminer, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (solo)
Maidens, Galerie Hengevoss-Dürkop, Hamburg (solo)
Snap Judgements: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, International Center of Photography, New York, USA (group)
Black, Brown & White, Fotografie aus Südafrika, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria (group)
The Whole World is Rotten, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (group)
Black Panther Rank and File, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California, USA (group)
The Living is Easy: International Contemporary Photography, Flowers East Gallery, London, United Kingdom (group)
African Remix, Zeitgenössische Kunst eines Kontinents, itinerante por: Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Germany, July - November 2004 / Hayward Gallery, London, UK, February – April 2005 / Centre Pompidou, Paris, France, May – August 2005 / Mori Art Museum, Tokio, Japan, June – September 2006 / Curators: Simon Njami, Jean-Hubert Martin, David Elliot, Marie-Laure Bernadac, Roger Malbert and Els van der Plas (group)
Planet Afrika. Zeitgenössische junge afrikanische Fotografie, curated by Thomas Michalak, in coop. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung im Rahmen 'Africom' Stationen: Magdeburg, Essen, Wittenberg, Kirkel, Frankfurt a.M., Berlin etc.
Why Pictures Now, MuMoK, Vienna
Ticket to the other side, Gallery Hengevoss Dürkop, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
Women in Private Spaces, Gallery Andrehn Schiptjenko, Stockholm, Sweden (solo)
The Whole World is Rotten, Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave, Castles of PAA Joe, organized by Claude Simard at the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA (group)
Venice Biennale 51st International Art Exhibition, curated by Maria de Corral And Rosa Martinez, Venice, Italy (group)
New Work / New Acquisitions, curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Ann Temkin, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (group)
A Passion for Pictures, North Carolina Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA (group)
Earth and Memory: African and African-American Photograph, Elizabeth Stone Harper Gallery, Presbyterian College, Clinton, North Carolina, USA (group)
Green to Green and Beyond, Gallery W 52, New York, USA (group)
The Forest, Politics, Poetics and Practice, The Nasher Museum at Duke University, North Carolina, USA (group)
Prague Biennale, Prague, Czech Republic (group)
Emergencies, at the Museo de Arte Contemporeneo de Castilla y Leon, MUSAC, Leon, Spain
Common Ground: Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, Selections from the Collection of Julia J. Norrell, curated by Philip Brookman and Jacquelyn Days Serwer, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA
Lines of Negotiation, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Harvesting Workers, Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA (solo)
New Works, Association for visual Arts, Ciudad del Cabo, South Africa (solo)
African Art, African Voices, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA (group)
Bienal de Gwangju, South Korea (group)
Bienal de Sao Paulo, Sau Paulo, Brazil (group)
Tama University Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (group)
Where? Clifford Chance Projects, New York, USA (group)
Common Ground, Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington DC, USA (group)
Passaporto, Le Meridien Lingotto Art & Tech, Turin Italy
Ipermercati dell’Arte, Palazzo delle Papesse, Sienna, Italy
Made in Africa Fotografia, Musei di Porta Romana, Milano, March, Italy
Festival della Fotografia, British Academy, Roma, April, Italy
Festival Couleur Café, curated by Hernau Bertiau, Tour et Taxis, Bruxelles, May, Belgium
New Identities, Contemporary South African Art, curated by Dr Golinski and Hiekisch-Picardi. Bochum Museum, Bochum, Germany
Association For Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa (solo)
Interior Portraits: Zwelethu Mthethwa photographs, Cleveland Museum, Ohio, USA (solo)
Hamburg Kunsthalle, Galerie der Gegenwart, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
8ᵃ Bienal de La Habana, Cuba (group)
Bienal de Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey (group)
Prague Biennale, Prague, Czech Republic (group)
Portraiture (Every PIcture Tells A Story) Solomon Projects, Atlanta, Georgia, USA (group)
Body and the Archive Artists Space, New York, USA (group)
Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video Centro Internacional de Fotografía, New York, USA (group)
The Gift: Generous Offerings, Threatening Hospitality, itinerante por Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA ; Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, USA ; Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand ; Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (group)
New Works, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, New York, USA
Gallery Hengevoss-Durkop, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
Museum of Contemporary Art, St Louis, Missouri, USA (solo)
Marco Noire Contemporary Art, San Sebastiano, Italy (solo)
Centro Cultural de Maia, O'Porto, Portugal (group)
Cultural Crossing, Numark Gallery, WAshington DC, USA (group)
Dis/location, Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Spain (group)
Fuoriuso, Ferrotel, Pescara, Italy (group)
New Acquisitions / New Works / New Directions 3: Contemporary Selections, Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Los Angeles, California, USA (group)
Overnight to Many Cities: Tourism and Travel at Home and Away, The Photographers' Gallery, London, UK (group)
Sudafrica: la pittura, la fotographia, il cinema, Centro "Trevi", Bolzano, Italy (group)
Shopping: Art and Consumer Culture, itinerante por Schrin Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany / Tate Liverpool. UK (group)
Staging, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri, USA (group)
In Situ - Portraits of People at Home, Hand Workshop Art Center, Richmond, Virginia, USA Hand Workshop
Tracing the Rainbow, itinerante por Kunst Raum Sylt-Quelle, Germany / Kulturverein Zehntscheuer, Roteburgo, Germany
Rebirth, Art Unlimited, Marco Noire Contemporary Art, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Centre National de la Photographie, curated by Régis Durand, Paris, France (solo)
Mother & Child, Marco Noire Contemporary Art, San Sebastiano, Italy (solo)
Private Spaces, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa (solo)
Africa 2000: The Artist and the City, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain (group)
Africa Today, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain (group)
A Passion for the Art:The Disaronno Originale Photography Collection, itinerante por Miami Art Museum, Florida, USA / New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA / Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA / University of California, Berkley / Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkley, California, USA (group)
Boomerang: Collector's Choice, Exit Art, New York, USA (group)
Centro de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain (group)
Frankfurtkunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany (group)
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Illinois, USA (group)
Paris pour escale, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (group)
Storie Contemporanee, Museo Cívico de Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy (group)
The Gift, Generous Offerings, Threatening Hospitality, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy / Travelling exhibition: Palazzo Candiolo, Venecia, Italy; San Francisco, California, USA; Scottsdale Museum of Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA (group)
The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994, Travelling exhibition Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany; Haus der Kulturen der Welt im Martin-Gropius-Bau, Belgium; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, USA; P.S. 1 Museum for Contemporary Art, New York, USA (group)
TRADE - Wares, ways and values in word trade today, itinerante por Fotomuseum Wintherthur, Wintherthur, Germany; Nederlands Foto Institut, Rotterdam, Netherlands (group)
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
Triennale der Photogaraphie Hamburg 2001
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, curated by Teresa Macrì and Maria Grazia Tolomeo, Roma, Italy (solo)
Rebirth, project room, FIAC Paris, Marco Noire (solo)
Contemporary Art, Paris, France (solo)
Art-World dialogue, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Paris Pour Escale, Musée d*Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (solo)
Sacred Homes, Galería Oliva Arauna, Madrid, Spain (solo)
Sacred Homes - Mother & Child, Palazzo Della Esposizioni, Roma, Italy (solo)
Pusan International Contemporary Art Festival, Pusan, Korea (group)
South meets West, Kunsthalle Berna, Switzerland (group)
Arts & Human Rights, Kwangju International Biennale, Seoul, Korea (group)
Bienal de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal (group)
Cream II, 10 directores conversando en Internet, New York, USA (group)
Dire Aids-Say Aids, Torino, Italy (group)
Home, Perth International Arts festival, Art Gallery of Perth Cultural Centre, Perth, Australia (group)
Kunsthalle Bern, Berna, Switzerland (group)
Mirades Impúdiques, Fundación La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain (group)
Mostra Africana de Arte Contemporanea, Video Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil (group)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (group)
Paris pour Escale, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (group)
A3HB, Hans Bogatske Collection of Contemporary Art, Camouflage, Brussels, Belgium (group)
A.R.E.A. 2000, Kjarvaisstadir, Reykjavik, Island (group)
Bienal de Fotografía de Rótterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (group)
Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY
Trienal de fotografía, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
Project Room, Art Köln, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Towards-Transit, New visual languages in South Africa, Pro Helvetia Art Council of Switzerland, Zurich, Switzerland (group)
Camouflage, Hans Bogatzke Collection of Contemporary African Art, Brussels, Belgium (group)
Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (con Shirin Neshat), Venice, Italy (group)
Goteborgs Kunstmuseum, Gotburgo, Sweden (group)
Il sentimento del 2000, Trienal de Milan-Photomedia Europe 1999, Milan, Italy (group)
Photoespaña 99: Images for dignity, Madrid, Spain (group)
Images for Dignity (Public art), PhotoEspane '99. Barcelona, Spain
Project Room, ARCO, Madrid, Spain
Site Santa Fe: Looking for a place, curated by Rosa Martinez, 3rd International Biennial, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA (group)
Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art from South Africa, The Museum for African Art, New York, USA (group)
Project Conflux, Tendences Mikado, Luxemburg (group)
Rewind fast forward, Za, Van Reekum Museum in Apeldoorm, Netherlands (group)
South meets West, The National Museum Accra, Accra, Ghana, travelling exhibition through Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (group)
Staking Claims, The Granary - parte del One City Many Cultures Festival, Cape Town, South Africa (group)
Marco Noire Contemporary Art, San Sebastiano, Italy
Yesterday Begins Tomorrow: Ideals, Dreams and the Contemporary Awakening, The Museum for African Art, New York, NY, USA (group)
Africa by Africa, curated by Carol Brown, Barbican Art Gallery London, UK
A History of African Photography, La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France (group)
Dakar Biennale, Dakar, Senegal (group)
Houston Photo Festival, Houston, Texas, USA (group)
Africa, Africa, Tobu Museum, Tokio, Japan (goup)
Architecture, apartheid and after, Van Reekum Museum, Rotterdam, Netherlands (goup)
Awakening, Centro papa estudio curatoriales, Bard College, Annandaleon-Houston, New York, USA (goup)
Blank... State Architecture + Urban planning in South Africa, Holland Architecture Institute, Travelling exhibition through Europe in1999 and South Africa in 2000 (goup)
Democracy's Images photographs and visual art after apartheid, Bild Museum, Sweden (goup)
The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Sasol Art Collection (goup)
Trade Routes: History and Geography, curated by Okwui Enwezor and Octavio Zaya, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale Johannesburg, South Africa
Association for Visual Arts, CRAM, Cape Town, South Africa (goup)
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway (goup)
Photo Syntesis- Contemporary South African Photography, Grahamstown Art Festival, South Africa (goup)
Trade Routes: History and Geography, Bienal de Johannesburgo, EletricWorkshop, Gauteng, South Africa (goup)
Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town, South Africa (goup)
Artists for Peace '95, Palais des Nations UN, Geneva, Switzerland
World Economic Forum Group Show Davos, Switzerland, Africa '95, Bernard Jacobson Gallery London, UK
Artists for Peace '95, Palais des Nations, travelling exhibition: Geneva, Switzerland and Dusseldorf, Germany (goup)
S.A. Association of Arts - 3 Person Show, Cape Town, South Africa (goup)
World Economic Forum Group Show, Davos, Switzerland (goup)
S.A. artists, Ottobrunn, Germany (goup)
Abidjan Biennale, Ivory Coast (goup)
Biennale of Illustration, Bratislava, Slovaquia
Grand Prix International d'Arts Plastiques, International Visual Arts, Nice, France (goup)
Singapore Exhibition, Singapoure (goup)
South African Association of Arts, Cape Town, South Africa (solo)
African Arts Center, Durban, South Africa (solo)
Dalijosafat Arts Centre, Paarl, South Africa (goup)
Memorial Art Museum, Rocherster, New York, USA (goup)
College Union, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA (solo)
South African Association of Arts, Cape Town, South Africa (group)
Elisabeth Sneddon Theatre, Universidad de Natal, Durban, South Africa (goup)

Public Collections

ABSA Bank, South Africa
MTN Collection, South Africa
Vodacom Collection, South Africa
JSE-Stock Exchange, South Africa
Stellenbosch University Africa, South Africa
Samuel Harn Museum, Miami, Florida, USA
Absolut Collection, Sweden
Ministere Culture Communication, France
Getty Museum, USA
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
LaSalle Bank, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Progressive Corporate Art Collection, Mayfield Viellage, Ohio, USA
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Daimler Chrysler Collection, Germany
Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, USA
Boland Bank, South Africa
PKS, South Africa
Siemans Ltd., South Africa
Gencor S.A. Ltd.
Transnet Ltd.
S.A. Reserve Bank
Rand Merchant Bank
Wooltru, Cape Town, South Africa
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, North Western University
Bounwond Art Collection, Netherlands
Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany
Old Mutual
Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, North Western University
University of South Africa
University of the Witwatersrand
South African Embassy, Washington DC, USA
Durban, Cape Town, New York, Sasol
Cape Departement of Education Trust
Arco Foundation, Madrid
Gilbey's Ltd.
Metropolitan Life
South African Breweries
Deutsche Bank Collection
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y Leon, Spain
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, USA
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA
Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
The New Museum, New York, USA
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, USA
National Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA
Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa


Common Ground: Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, Merrell Publishers, London, October 2004,
Fernando Oliva: Ripening Process, Lapiz 207, November 2004, p. 64-68,
Salgado, Gabriela: 8th Havana Biennial. The Bittersweet Taste of Utopia, Flash Art January 2004, p.47,
Pollack, Barbara: When South Africa Joined the World, And the Art World, The New York Times, Sunday, March 8, p.AR 19
Fast Forward on the Persian Gulf, Art in America, November, 2003 p. 87-91,
The New Yorker: Short List, September 15, 2003 P.24
Demokratins Bilder, text by Santu Mofokeng, page. 80-89, published by Bild Museet, Umea, Sweden,
Postculture, text by Teresa Macri, page. 122-124, published by Meltemi, Roma, Italy,
Dislocation, Texts by D. Tilkin, K. Smith, page. 56-61, published by La Fabrica, Madrid, Spain