News South Africa

South African artist charged with woman's murder

Zwelethu Mthethwa is a victim of mistaken identity, says director of his Johannesburg-based gallery

Zwelethu Mthethwa

The leading South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa has appeared in court in Cape Town charged with murder. He was arrested in May after a woman was beaten to death in the eastern Woodstock area of the city in mid April.

Mthethwa is represented by the Johannesburg-based gallery Everard Read. Its director, Mark Read, tells The Art Newspaper: “Mthethwa is emphatic that this crime is nothing to do with him. It’s a case of mistaken identity.”

Mthethwa’s lawyer, William Booth, could not be reached for comment; the artist reportedly denies all the charges and has been released on bail.

The victim has been named as 23-year-old Nokuphila Kumalo. According to the Cape Argus newspaper, Mthethwa's car has been linked to the crime via video footage.

The artist, who participated in the 2003 Sharjah biennial, is known for his large-scale photographs of migrant workers, Christian missionaries and shanty town inhabitants.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York owns three of his works including the screenprint Being Cozy, 2000.

Mthethwa is also part of New York dealer Jack Shainman’s stable of artists.

According to the gallery's website, “Mthethwa’s works often comment on the traditional roles of black men and their masculinity, and raise consciousness around issues related to post-apartheid South African society.”

The next hearing, which is expected to take place in the regional court, is scheduled for 10 October.

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