Simoni Mnguni was born in 1885 near Entembeni in KwaZulu Natal at a mission station where he learnt to speak and write English and died at Umlazi outside Durban in 1956. Andries Loots says that he first worked a a domestic worker and cook and had the opportunity of travelling with his employer to Johannesburg and Mozambique. Mnguni initially lived in Verulam and worked for a local painting company, Smith and Winfield until his retirement at 60 years old. A self-taught artist, he began to paint at the age of 40 in 1925 and worked in watercolour when his work was exhibited at the Natal Society of Artists annual exhibition. Mnguni is acknowledged as the first black artist to work with watercolour. He painted specific and identifiable landscape scenes of Natal and Zululand. His watercolours of traditional Zulu lifestyle and dress are exceptional in their attention detail and realistic portrayal. His work can be seen in various collections, Campbell Collection of University of Natal, Mission Museum in Hermannsburg KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg Art Gallery and private collections.
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