Short Fuse Podcast #46: Zakes Mda’s “Washboards and Mirrors” at the South African Cultural Center

By Elizabeth Howard



Episode Summary

Washboards and Mirrors, the Collages of Zakes Mda was the inaugural exhibition in the South African Cultural Center in New York City in September, before traveling to Pretoria. Professor Mda was in New York to celebrate South Africa’s National Heritage Day and to speak at the official launch of the South African Cultural Center. He talked with Elizabeth Howard about his paintings, his two books published during October in South Africa, and his play, And the Girls in Their Sunday Clothes, which just closed in London.

Zakes Mda, Famo Series 6, Acrylic on canvas collaged with newsprint, fabric, found objects, and glass mirrors.

Program Notes

The South African Cultural Center, New York City

The value of cultural diplomacy has long been acknowledged as a critical component in the projection of a nation’s identity. On September 23, 2021, the South African Consulate General in New York opened a Cultural Center at 845 Third Avenue. The inaugural exhibition, celebrating South Africa’s Heritage Day, was an exhibition in the gallery of South African artist Zakes Mda’s collection of collages, Washboards and Mirrors

South African artist and writer Zakes Mda.

Zakes Mda is the pen name of Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda. Born in South Africa, the writer, painter, and composer also has roots in Lesotho and Ohio. He holds an MFA (Theater) and an MA (Telecommunications) from Ohio University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town.

He has published 22 books, 10 of which are novels. The rest include collections of plays, poetry, and a monograph on the theory and practice of theater-for-development. His novel Cion, set in southeast Ohio, was nominated for the NAACP Image Award. His memoir Sometimes There Is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and was a New York Times Notable Book for 2012.

Mda commutes between the US, where he is Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio University, and South Africa, where he is Extraordinary Professor of English at the University of the Western Cape; a beekeeper in the Eastern Cape (running a project he established in 2000 with rural women); and a director of NeoZane, a publishing house and animation film production company based in Johannesburg.

Elizabeth Howard is the host and the producer of the Short Fuse Podcast. For her, there are no barriers between her life, work, art, and writing.  She seeks collaboration, flexibility, spontaneity and responsiveness in the projects she designs and completes. As the host of the Short Fuse podcast she draws individuals into lively and provocative conversations around the arts: dance, theater, literature, music, and film.

Alex Waters is a media producer and editor for the Short Fuse Podcast, a music producer, and Berklee College of Music student. He has written and produced music and edited for podcasts such as The Faith and Chai Podcast and Con Confianza. He produces his own, as well as writes music and records for independent artists such as The Living. Alex lives in Brooklyn. You can reach him with inquiries by emailing

The Short Fuse Podcast is produced by the Arts Fuse. Email:

The Arts Fuse was established in June, 2007 as a curated, independent online arts magazine dedicated to publishing in-depth criticism, along with high quality previews, interviews, and commentaries. The publication’s over 60 freelance critics (many of them with decades of experience) cover dance, film, food, literature, music, television, theater, video games, and visual arts.

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