The Art of Activism launches Mzala Week


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NUNN1: by Cedric Nunn
NUNN1: by Cedric Nunn

Mzala Nxumalo Centre presents the Art of Activism, a joint exhibition and public dialogue with photographers Omar Badsha; Cedric Nunn and Rafs Mayet.

Monday 11 June 2018: 17:30 – 20:00THE ART OF ACTIVISM
Durban Art Gallery

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The opening event of Mzala Week – themed Crossroads – is a photographic exhibition and public discussion at the Durban Art Gallery entitled The Art of Activism featuring works of three of the country’s most respected photographers and social commentators: Omar Badsha, Cedric Nunn and Rafs Mayet, opening on Monday 11 June.

The Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society (MNC) is hosting a series of events for their annual Mzala Week taking place from Monday 11 June until Saturday 16 June, with events taking place in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg.

The week starts off on Monday 11 June at 5.30pm at the Durban Art Gallery with the opening of an exhibition, and a public engagement session with works of famed struggle-era photographers who are still working today – Omar Badsha, Cedric Nunn and Rafs Mayet.

As part of the opening session, the three will consider the role of “Art of Activism” in which they will be examining, analysing and unpacking the role of visual arts in disrupting societal narratives and mobilising social change and the changing role of the arts in our current context in SA. Mario Pissarra, artist, academic, curator, writer, editor and founder of SA Art Initiative, will open the exhibition and lead the dialogue.

Entry is free, and all are welcome to the opening and public dialogue.

OB N 60A3149: by Omar Badsha: Rogers Ngcobo IFP leader addressing residents of Amouti, 1982
OB N 60A3149: by Omar Badsha: Rogers Ngcobo IFP leader addressing residents of Amouti, 1982

An exhibition of some of the enormous body of work by Omar Badsha, Cedric Nunn and Rafs Mayet, will be on display in the Circular Gallery for two weeks.

A self-taught, award winning artist and photographer. Badsha played an active role in the South African liberation struggle, as a cultural and political activist and trade union leader. He is the author and co-author of six books and since the mid-sixties curated numerous exhibitions. His paintings and photographs have been exhibited locally and globally since 1965 and his works can be found in major public collections across South Africa and in leading galleries and institutions abroad. He is regarded by many as one of the leading and most influential anti-apartheid cultural activists, artists and documentary photographers in the country. He is the recipient of a number of awards for painting, arts, photographer and historian.

66.OB.83 A376: by Omar Badsha: Christmas Day Inanda, KZN
66.OB.83 A376: by Omar Badsha: Christmas Day Inanda, KZN

Similarly, Cedric Nunn inhabits a similar space in the annals of our country’s archives: “I am committed through my photographs, to contributing to societal change that will leave a positive legacy for the children of Africa,” he explains.

He began photography in Durban in the early eighties, his initial impetus being to document the realities of apartheid that he thought were being ignored by the mainstream media. He moved to Johannesburg and joined the Afrapix collective and agency working largely with NGO’s, his focus throughout has been on documenting social change, and in particular rural issues. He continued to work independently after the demise of Afrapix in the early ‘90’s. Extensive work experience was gained in media such as newspapers, wire agencies, magazines, public relation companies through to corporate, and he has exhibited extensively, both locally and abroad, and conducted a myriad photography education projects.

Fellow Afrapix photographer Rafique “Rafs” Mayet was taught the basics of photography by Omar Badsha in the early 80s and he started working at the Daily Dispatch in East London and later at the New African in Durban and as a member of the Afrapix collective. He has since participated in a number of exhibitions. He worked for the Independent Electoral Commission during the first democratic elections in 1994, some of these pictures were published in a book called “An end to waiting”. He has also done an essay on Working Women for the Worker’s College in 1995, which is still being used at union meetings and conferences. Rafs is still living and working in Durban and continues with his ongoing documentation of contemporary jazz musicians, whilst learning more about archival printing processes.

The Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society was launched in December 2015 as a non-profit organisation (NPO) to commemorate the life and works of Jabulani Nobleman Nxumalo, popularly known as Comrade Mzala – an activist, soldier, intellectual and writer who died at age of 35 on February 22, 1991 after a long illness. The Pietermaritzburg-based Centre aims to bring together left-wing students, scholars, intellectuals and political activists to research, learn, debate, read and theorise the social, economic and political dimensions of South African society, inspired by the life of Mzala Nxumalo.

For their Mzala Week – a carefully-curated programme of interesting activities has been assembled – which will take place in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg over one week, culminating in the second Imbumba Community Festival on Youth Day, 16 June in Glenwood. The programme comprises a photographic exhibition; a conversation about the role of art in activism; a book launch; and a colloquium.


  • Monday 11 June: 17:30 – 20:00: Durban Art Gallery – The Art of Activism Omar Badsha, Cedric Nunn, Rafs Mayet Exhibition and Dialogue with Mario Pissarra.
  • Tuesday 12 June: 17:30: Imbali Hall, Pietermaritzburg – Flashes in Her Soul book launch.
  • Thursday 14 June: 17:30 – 20:00: Johannesburg – Colloquim: Why Foundations? Activism & Change from the Armchair of Comfort
  • Saturday 16 June: all day – Glenwood – Imbumba Fiesta

Programme subject to change: please check Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society Facebook Page for any changes

Juxtaposed against the historical narrative by Badsha, Nunn and Mayet will be contemporary works of post-apartheid era, where young artists from the Amasosha Art Movement will exhibit their works which will focus our consciousness to pierce the veil of complacency that has set in and which has brought us to the Crossroads – the theme of this Mzala Commemoration Week. Amasosha Art Movement is a dynamic collective of 17 artists from Durban and surrounding areas. The word ‘Amasosha’ is an isiZulu loanword derived from the English word ‘soldiers’. Quite clearly, the idea was to evoke qualities found in soldiers such as self-reliance, hard work, bravery, unity and front-line combat, amongst others. In a way evoking some sense of being on a mission. It is on these values that Amasosha Art Movement was founded. This movement is emerging as a critical vehicle in the exploration, interrogation and collaboration of ideas. All this is possible because of the multi-discipline composition of the collective. Over time it became apparent that working space is needed. Through support from various interested individuals and entities, Amasosha were able to move to Ikomkhulu Art Space. This is where ideas are worked, literally. It is also at this space that Amasosha have been hosting exhibitions, film screenings and some performances, every Friday.

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