We went to meet south african artist Zwelethu Mthethwa, who through his paintings and photographs, plunges us into the reality of his country.
Between Cape Town, New York, Madrid, Paris, Zwelethu is one of the most praised South African artist. After receiving his diploma at Michaelis Art School of Cape Town (where he will later be teaching), at the time for whites only, he managed to get a scholarship for Rochester University of Technology in New York a few years later. He then encountered a lightning success and started exhibiting all around the world.
His pastels and oils are the reflection of Africa’s daily life. With a mix of impressionism and fauvism, his powerful and colourful pastels bring to life the striking reality of South Africa with a positive naivety. Like a poem but in colour and with images, his work is exceptionally strong and powerful.
But Zwelethu is not only a painter, he’s also an acclaimed photographer. Like many artists, he got really inspired by the end of the Apartheid in 1994, and started exploring the new Black South Africa and how it changed their lives. Known for photographing his subjects in their own environment to maintain their cultural identity, Zwelethu works very closely with them. Their homes, their cloths, their work premises, everything is authentic even though the subjects are always staged.
Like his paintings, his photographs tell the same story, but instead of using his pastels, he uses his lens. Printed in big format, and unique prints only, his photos are stunning, and respect the same colours as his pastels. Artist arised from the Apartheid, who went through segregation and stood out for his art, Zwelethu uses his past and his identity to show the new face of the Black South Africa.
Text anf photos Nathalie Bardin • Jean-Marc Lederman