national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, August 25, 2019


(Emlanjeni (2015): Refugees share the only water tap available at a refugee camp housing over 150 people at the height of xenophobia in Isipingo, Durban. The tap was a hub of activity, serving as the only water source for the displaced community.)
The approaching month of September bears a special meaning for South Africans. It is during this period that the Cultural Arts and Heritage of the indigenous people, and post-colonial settlers, are celebrated.

In alignment with the cultural theme of the month of spring, the BAT Centre is hosting Wena Wezulu, a solo photo-journalism exhibition by Qiniso Mbili in the Menzi Mchunu Gallery.

September 24, the South African National Holiday evolved from Shaka’s Day, to Heroes Day before becoming Heritage Day.

As the historical naming of the commemorated day demonstrates – Heritage Day was originally named after the legendary Zulu Emperor, Shaka Zulu. It is, therefore, strikingly interesting that Mbili’s exhibition title is Wena Wezulu which means “Your Highness” in the Zulu language. In context, the phrase is usually used to demonstrate submission and acknowledgement of royalty. It is in relation to this connotation that I find the artwork of Mbili interesting and provocative.

Wena Wezulu is a photojournalism project that seeks to spark conversation concerning leadership issues and  themes. This project essentially raises questions about Africa’s leadership crisis. Themes such as different sources of power, behaviour and leadership styles are evoked by the images.

Wena Wezulu may be instrumental in encouraging pragmatism towards facing the social challenges in Southern Africa. The exhibition strongly depicts the three recurring issues facing the contemporary SA citizen, namely, unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Mbili’s photography is inspired by his work as a professional journalist. As a graduate from the Durban University of Technology, he attained his Bachelor of Technology in Journalism qualification in 2016. This was a year after winning the National Nat Nakasa Essay Writing Competition. The prestigious award was based on his submission focusing on the veteran journalist’s role in the struggle against Apartheid.

His first group exhibition was held in Durban, October 2018. Shortly after that, he went on to win the Pure Campaign 2018 Best Photographer Award. In the same year he was recognised by The Young Independent 100 SADC 2018 as one of the top 100 promising youth leaders in the Southern hemisphere across a variety of fields, including innovation, disruption and influence.

Recently he was nominated on the prestigious Durban Creative Awards for the best photography category. His activism is demonstrated through his community development work at The Organised People Towards Development (TOPTD)organisation, an organisation which he co-founded.

For more information contact Mbali Shabane, Curator, on 031 332 0451 / 076 138 1418 or visit