Zulu nation’s portrait of king disappears

2019-01-18 10:11
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (left) presents the portrait of Zulu King Cetshwayo to King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2003.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (left) presents the portrait of Zulu King Cetshwayo to King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2003.

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Where is the king’s painting?

It was gifted to the Zulu nation, and accepted by King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2003. Years later, it was auctioned and later spotted in the window of an antiques and collectables dealer in Hillcrest.

How did a painting of Zulu King Cetshwayo leave the Zulu Royal Household and who has it now?

Now, Midlands artist Brenda Johnstone wants to know the whereabouts of the painting she entered into a Tatham Art Gallery competition in 2003. The contest had been organised by former director Brendan Bell as part of the Maritzburg gallery’s centenary celebrations.

Hundreds of people entered the competition, with a winner’s prize of R100 000, to paint a full-length portrait of the Zulu king.

The winning work, by Cape Town artist Helen Train, now forms part of the Tatham’s permanent collection.

Johnstone’s work was not amongst the finalists, but it was the only one sold on exhibition.

The buyer, prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, gifted it to King Goodwill Zwelithini at the unveiling of the Spirit of Emakhosini Memorial in Ulundi in May, 2003. The king accepted it on behalf of the Zulu nation.

Some 10 years later, it had slipped out of royal hands and turned up for sale by Thunder Auctioneers in Hillcrest. The person who bought it refused to comment on the matter.

Artist Brenda Johnstone pictured at the handover of the painting of Zulu King Cetshwayo to the Zulu nation in 2003. 

The next sighting of the painting was in a shop window of the antiques and collectables dealer “Mrs Pinkerton”.

“A friend of mine saw it in the window and contacted me to ask if I knew anything about it,” said Johnstone, who recently moved from Curry’s Post to Amber Valley in Howick.

“I was shocked and went to see for myself. Once I had looked at it, I told the people at the shop that it was my painting. I want to know where it is,” she said, as she wants it to go on public display.

The painting had a sale price of R45 000.

The owner of Mrs Pinkerton, Jacqui Vanderpol, said the painting had been returned to the customer who had brought it into her shop to sell a couple of years ago.

The owner of Thunder Auctioneers, John Webber, told The Witness it would be difficult to say how the painting ended up at the auction house without a tax invoice.

Royal Household spokesperson Prince Thulani Zulu said they were not aware that the painting had disappeared.


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