Tumelo Mtimkhulu

Recent Prints, 2023

Narratives of love can exist alongside narratives of political strife

Tumelo Mtimkhulu
b. 2023
Johannesburg, South Africa


Recent Prints, 2023

Tumelo Mtimkhulu is a South African visual artist, writer and poet born in Germiston, Johannesburg. He completed his BA in Visual Art at the University of Johannesburg in 2022. Mtimkhulu primarily works in the disciplines of making art, poetry and writing. His writing and materiality mostly inform his practice.

He is a published poet, having been in the top 10 of the 50 featured poets in the 2020 Corona’cles Poetry Anthology. Mtimkhulu is a recipient of the Athol Williams award for the year 2019 at the 2020 WordNSound Awards. He has performed poetry at a number of places, namely: August House, Victoria Yards, The Market Theatre, AGOG gallery, P.O.P Art Theatre, Con Cowan Theatre and Jo’burg Theatre. Mtimkhulu has also featured in the top 10 for the year 2019 for both the WordNSound Poetry League and World of Words poetry slam. He came second in the 2019 edition of the annual Ekurhuleni Poetry Slam in the category of best Narrative Poem and third in 2020.

In 2021, two of his works made it into the top 100 for the Thami Mnyele Fine Art competition, this included a virtual exhibition. Mtimkhulu also won the 2021 Luchulumanco Nanto Foundation Essay Competition. In 2021 his drawings and prints were also featured in two of the UJ Best of the Best group exhibitions.

At the beginning of 2022 he was one of the 10 artists chosen for TAF Unearthed; A 6 month mentorship programme which facilitates the growth of artists by way of different workshops and ultimately culminated in a group exhibition curated by Teboho Ralesai for the 2022 installment of Turbine Art Fair. Mtimkhulu has worked collaboratively on a print project facilitated by Prof. Kim Berman for Documenta 15 in Kassel, Germany entitled Beyond Waste at Exploring Visual Culture, Summer school. His work was also featured in the 2022 Summer Salon at the Bag Factory. In 2022, Mtimkhulu also co- curated an exhibition for the World Congress of Constitutional Law at the University of Johannesburg.

Remainders whose beauty can still beguile

The text is a poem of mine still in the editing process, suspended between beginning and ‘abandonment’ for a poem is never completed — it is merely abandoned by the poet. Upon reflection — the editing process for me visually captures the struggle between trying to accommodate the nuances that make me and thus my interest in making space for both personal history as well as ‘other’ inherited histories. Narratives of love can exist alongside narratives of political strife and often when there is an attempt to historicize a time other narratives are sacrificed at the altar of narratives deemed ‘grander’.

Who counts as human?

Cenotaphs are often erected as an attempt to reify histories – to ensure that the histories they act as surrogates for are never erased. In the work entitiled Who counts as human?, I specifically focus on The Cenotaph War Memorial Statue in Cape Town designed 1924 by Vernon March said to commemorate the lives of ‘South Africans’ lost in the three wars: World war I, World war II and The Korean War.

There are inscriptions on the memorial, written in English and Afrikaans. The English inscriptions are:

  • To the immortal honour of the South Afrikaans who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War. This memorial is dedicated in proud and grateful recognition by their countrymen.
  • Their name liveth for evermore

Taking into consideration the historical context of when The Cenotaph War Memorial Statue was erected as well as written accounts of how the black, coloured and Indian persons who fought and survived the wars were treated or rather mistreated in South Africa after the wars — this inhibits me from seeing the existence of the cenotaph as merely a commemorative structure for the ‘South Africans’ who lost their lives and fought in the wars. For me, it invokes questions like: “who was granted the status of being ‘South African’?” and by extension “who was deemed human enough to be regarded as ‘South African’? And therefore worthy of honour and ‘grateful recognition’

The kind of medium I employ in the making of the work needs to be in conversation with the imagined intent of the work. Cyanotype as it is a process that relies on photography — a medium often thought to be objective invokes Susan Sontag’s intimation that “to photograph is to frame and to frame is to exclude”. The fact that I made a photograph of a part of the cenotaph to comment on the whole and its history, thereby framing and excluding part of the structure speaks to Sontag’s observation on the nature of photography.

Thinking with Sontag’s observation on Vernon March’s cenotaph — as a physical structure, I question which histories it frames as important and which it excludes because they were deemed a lesser consequence and therefore disposable. How can a structure whose intent was to fix a time exist in a different time? These are all questions whose answers I am yet to arrive at.
— Tumelo Mtimkhulu, 2023


Remainders whose beauty can still beguile
Drypoint with chine-collé
Shirakaba and BFK Rives paper
81 x 38 cm
Edition of 10 + 1 AP
R3 800

Who counts as human?
Cyanotype on birch ply with acrylic
244 x 36.5 cm
R11 000


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