Mbongiseni Jerome Mkhize

Ngiyazisa Ngomafungwase Wakethu, (I am crying for our elder sister), a work in oil pastel on paper by Jerome Mkhize (plate 324), was featured on the exhibition Untold Tales of Magic: Abelumbi. This exhibition was curated by Jill Addleson of the Durban Art Gallery in 2002, and it toured South Africa thereafter. Mkhize made a terrifying image that deals with the clandestine killings that are sometimes carried out in Zulu communities to obtain human body parts for rituals and the purposes of traditional medicine or muthi.

In this work there is an element of the autobiographical at work, for the artist seems to be dealing with the loss of his elder sister who was the victim of such a killing. The central figure wearing amulets around his neck is using a knife on her corpse to remove certain organs, while two animal-like figures, apparently zombies, look on. To the left, some skeletons, possibly signifying the victim’s ancestors, arise from an opening coffin with gestures of dismay. This work was an obvious expression of the artist’s disapproval of such practices in his own culture. Mkhize’s life was tragically cut short soon after the work was first exhibited. We have little to go by in relation to this image, other than Mkhize’s own thoughts on the subject which were reflected in the following statement published in the Abelumbi catalogue:

Some magic is unharmful, like believing in ghosts, while other kinds of magic are terrible, with bad results. It is very bad when people believe in cutting parts of the human body and then using them for ‘muthi’ to make them rich. It is bad to believe some nyangas who make believe that to kill your relative will make you rich. An extreme belief is that if you sleep with a virgin you will be cured from AIDS. This will only have a negative result and scare people who are at risk from this belief. Some beliefs are harmless and interesting like you will grow horns if you tell a tale during the day.1

Hayden Proud

  1. Jill Addleson. (Curator and ed.). 2002. Untold Tales of Magic: Abelumbi. Durban Art Gallery: Durban, p. 119.

Born 1968, Molweni, Lower Langfontein; died Durban, 2002. Training Initial Training under an artist named Eugene Mbambo. BA (Fine Arts), Technikon Natal. Exhibitions 1999: Two solo Exhibitions at the Waterfall Shopping Centre. Also participated in an undocumented group exhibition in a cottage next to the Natal Technikon.