Photography by Zwelethu Mthethwa. Text by Isolde Brielmaier, Okwui Enwezor.
Aperture, New York, 2010. 180 pp., 75 color illustrations, 11¾x10½".
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 portraits
powerfully frame black South Africans as dignified and defiant individuals,
even under the duress of social and economic hardship.
Photographing in urban and rural industrial landscapes, Mthethwa
documents a range of aspects in South Africa, from domestic life
and the environment to landscape and labor issues. Mthethwa’s
work challenges the conventions of bothWestern 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 described it—and employing
a fresh approach marked by color and collaboration. Zwelethu
Mthethwa, the artist’s long awaited first comprehensive monograph
provides an overview of his work to date, and features the
stunning portraits that have brought him international acclaim.