Zwelethu Mthethwa – biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

IntroSouth African artist
A.K.A.Zwelethu Harold Joseph Mthethwa
Is Photographer 
From South Africa 
Type Arts 
Birth Durban

Zwelethu Mthethwa (born 1960) is a South African painter and photographer. Mthethwa is represented in Cape Town by BRUNDYN + GONSALVES, Johannesburg by Everard Read and in New York by the Jack Shainman Gallery.


Mthethwa, a native of Durban, graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. He received a Fulbright Scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he received his master’s degree in imaging arts in 1989. Upon returning home, he worked for some years in business, and then became a lecturer on photography and drawing at the Michaelis School in 1994. He left the post in 1999 to devote himself full-time to his art. Mthethwa is particularly known for his large-format color photographs, but also works in paint and pastel; he has had over 50 solo exhibitions in galleries around the world. Currently he lives and works in Cape Town.

Recent Developments

His work was included in the 2005 Venice Biennale and the 2004 Gwangju Biennale.

Allegations of Murder

Zwelethu Mthethwa was charged with the murder of a 23-year-old woman named Nokuphila Kumalo. According to Jillian Steinhauer, “The murder took place on April 13, 2013 when a man brutally hit and kicked Kumalo, who’s believed to have been a sex worker, to death on a street in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town. Closed-circuit cameras captured the assault and led police to Mthethwa. There is also reportedly an eye witness. The artist denies the charges and claims innocence.” The trial has been postponed several times over the past two years. Mthethwa’s trial was postponed again on June 1, 2015. The postponement was approved so additional evidence could be collected. Apparently, Mthethwa’s lawyer William Booth has had trouble gaining access to private properties to gather a said evidence. The trial continued on June 2, 2015. Mthethwa plead not guilty, and court was set to continue on June 8, 2015. According to Ashley Furlong, as of 3 February 2016, Mthethwa’s case has yet again been delayed. Furlong states, “The reason for [the] delay was twofold–the Shona interpreter for a Zimbabwean man who was set to take the stand was very sick, and there was a need to compile a ‘working document’ of the papers that forensic pathologist Dr Linda Liebenberg might refer to.”

Selected Recent Solo Exhibitions


  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: New Works, Jack Shainman Gallery


  • Zwelethu Mthethwa, curated by Kirsten Hileman, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland
  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: Sugar Cane (2003–2007), curated by Diego Cortez. John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.


  • New Works, iArt Gallery (now BRUNDYN + GONSALVES), Cape Town


  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: Inner Views, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: Brick workers & Contemporary Gladiators, Galeria Oliva Arauna, Madrid, Spain
  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: Is it our goal…? And Other Related Issues, Circa on Jellicoe, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Zwelethu Mthethwa, iArt Gallery, Cape Town


  • Zwelethu Mthethwa: New Works, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York