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Zwelethu Mthethwa Photo: Deon Raath

South African Court Convicts Artist Zwelethu Mthethwa of Murder

The Western Cape High Court in Cape Town has found artist Zwelethu Mthethwa guilty of murdering twenty-three-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo, Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic reports.

The artist has maintained his innocence since the trial began nearly four years ago but decided not to testify in court. His psychiatrist told the judge that Mthethwa does not recall any of the events that occurred on the night Kumalo was beaten to death on the street in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town, in April 2013.

Video footage presented as evidence at the trial shows Mthethwa’s car at the crime scene. As Judge Patricia Goliath delivered the verdict, she told Mthethwa that his memory loss was a “fabrication.” He will be sentenced on March 29.

Jack Shainman Gallery has represented Mthethwa since 2000. The photographer’s best-known works are his documentary portraits of men and women in their work and domestic environments. Mthethwa frequently addresses post-apartheid South African society and the traditional role of black men. His works can be found in the collections of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Centre Pompidou, and the South African National Gallery.

The allegations against the artist embroiled the Iziko South African National Gallery in a dispute with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce last year. The gallery chose to exhibit Mthethwa’s photograph of a woman and her dowry in the show “Our Lady,” which was organized to celebrate women. In a scathing letter to the institution, the group accused the curators of prioritizing “the notoriety of the accused rather than [showing] respect for the victim.” Members of the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce attended most of the trial and were present as the judge read the ruling aloud.

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