Open dialogue on inclusion of Mthethwa’s artwork


Say Her NameThe Sex Worker and Education and Advocacy Taskforce and Sisonke National Sex Worker Movement of South Africa have initiated an open dialogue with Iziko Museums of South Africa and the New Church Museum about the inclusion of Zwelethu Mthethwa’s artwork in the Our Lady exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery.

Following a media statement by SWEAT, all partners met and agreed on the following:

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  • SWEAT will perform a creative direct action at 6pm outside Iziko South African National Gallery on the 1 December 2016.
  • SWEAT and Iziko will write a joint statement that contextualises the artist and the art work that will be placed next to the work.
  • A portrait of Nokuphila Kumalo painted by Astrid Warren and commissioned by SWEAT (and/or a police mugshot that it was based on), will be exhibited as part of the upcoming At Face Value exhibition.
  • A public dialogue will be hosted by the Iziko South African National Gallery. Further details will be announced in due course.

We are in agreement that art should challenge, educate, provoke and disrupt discourses, prompting debate. However, platforms of debate do not arise in a vacuum, and the inclusion of marginalized people is not automatic. In addition, both parties recognize the invisibility of Nokuphila Kumalo and women like her. Viewers of Mthethwa’s work will have the opportunity to place his work in the context of his trial for her murder.

SWEAT and Sisonke have welcomed Iziko and New Church Museum’s willingness to engage. While we may debate the role of art, all institutions involved agree – violence against women is never acceptable, and all steps must be taken to end this violence and its structural underpinnings.


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