Zwelethu Mthethwa was born in 1960 in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. He holds diplomas from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. As a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, he studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States, where he received a master's degree in imaging arts in 1989. On his return to South Africa he worked for several years in commerce before becoming a lecturer on photography and drawing at the Michaelis School in 1994.
In 1999 Mthethwa left teaching to devote himself full time to his artwork. He has received national and international recognition and has had over 35 solo exhibition in galleries and museums in the United States, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland and South Africa. Best known for his large-format color photography, he also works in pastel and paint. The artist lives and works in Cape Town.