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IN MENZI'S ABSENCE (article first published : 2004-03-7)

The search for Durban artist Menzi Mcunu begins again. During the turbulence and uncertainties of 1992 in KwaZulu Natal, Menzi did not return home on the night of May 29. His family, friends, fellow artists and collectors have never seen or heard from him since. Leads to his whereabouts have proved fruitless but his family still hopes to see him again. He left behind a twelve-year-old son, Buyani Mcunu.

During the month of March, which celebrates Human Rights, the BAT Centre will hold an exhibition of Menzi Mcunuís works. The BAT Centre has chosen to celebrate this one particular artist because of the inspiring memory of his creativity that has influenced growth in art productions by artists of colour. The BAT Centre's main art gallery is named after him.

Menzi Mcunuís was born in September 14, 1964, in Lamontville, Durban. He received his lower education at Ntuthukweni Primary, then went to Bantu Vukani Higher Primary, Pholela Institute and completed his matriculation in Ohlange High School. Although he received no arts training as school, he displayed an impressive talent. In 1985 he was awarded a bursary by The Daily News to study Fine Arts at Technikon Natal (now Durban Institute of Technology) and, with further support from his parents, he was able to register and began his career towards being a professional arts. The only black artist student to advance to final year in 1991, he became involved in community work and was an exponent of community development through the arts.

He taught art to factory workers in Hammarsdale but also showed a positive attitude towards children. His collaboration with street children resulted in a collection of works which were presented on an exhibition on childrenís rights held at the Durban Expo in '85.

In 1990 he went to the institute of Contemporary Art, London, where he took part in the Zabalaza Festival, presenting giant murals that depicted scenes from rural villages and townships in South Africa. He participated in many mural community projects. These included Hebox in Hammarsdale , another in Gadaleni High School Isandlwana - one of history's famous war sites - and 1992 he did two murals for the Ilanga Newspaper office, one of which still exists. He is represented in public and private collections in SA.

He worked closely with Terry Anne Stevenson, Ilse Mikula, S'fiso kaMkame, Thami Jali and Paul Sibisi at Paul Mikula's studios on Cedar Road, Durban.

This exhibition will showcase works that Menzi Mcunu produced whilst in Durban and some that have been newly discovered. The exhibition will be opened on March 11 by Paul Mikula (one of the founders of BAT) and will run until March 28. Award-winning poet, Philani Myeni and Richard Ellis from the BAT drumming circle will form part of the entertainment. More details from the BAT Centre on 031 332 4051.




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