Zwelethu Mthethwa

Photographs by Zwelethu Mthethwa
Essay by Okwui Enwezor Interview by Isolde Brielmaier

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10 x 11 3/4 inches 120 pages, 75 four-color images Hardcover 978-1-59711-113-3 Spring 2010 Designed by Francesca Richer

Zwelethu Mthethwa is the self-titled monograph by one of today's leading artists. This long-awaited first monograph provides a comprehensive overview of his work to date and features the stunning portraits that have brought him international acclaim. Since apartheid's 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. Working in urban and rural industrial landscapes, Mthethwa documents multiple aspects of South Africa—from domestic life and the environment, to landscape and labor issues. His work challenges the conventions of both Western documentary work and African commercial studio photography, marking a transition away from the visually exotic and diseased—or "afro-pessimism," as curator Okwui Enwezor has referred to it—and employing a fresh approach marked by color and collaboration. 

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, and his master’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Mthethwa has had over thirty-five international solo exhibitions and numerous group shows, including the 2005 Venice Biennale, and Snap Judgments at the International Center of Photography, New York. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

Okwui Enwezor (essay) is the dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute and former artistic director of both Documenta XI and the second Johannesburg Biennale. He is a pioneering critic and curator.

Isolde Brielmaier (interview) is a visiting assistant professor of art at Vassar College and guest professor at Barnard College/Columbia University, as well as an independent curator and writer.