This new exhibition follows in the grand romantic travel adventures of the inimitable Mpunzi Shezi who is back from his travels to Goa, India. Shezi first met his artistic muse, Naokichi Nakamura (remember ‘Zulu Sushi’?), nearly a hundred years ago and went on to become the first Zulu Guru teaching Ubuntu to the Buddhists while explaining Zen to the Zulus.
‘Nakumura (and Shezi, one would suppose…), took a ride along Durban’s palm lined beachfront in one of the rickshaws and took his tea at a kiosk run by a Cuban wearing the largest straw hat he had set his eyes upon. He found Durban to be reminiscent of Yokohama with its bustling Port; palm lined beachfront, gentlemanly clubs and colourful gardens. He spoke hesitant English and found that he and his Rickshaw puller could communicate if they took their time. Together they supped at a pie cart in the harbour area and he sampled Zulu beer with the stevedores in a nearby beer hall, noting that his English improved after the second pot’.
It is important to note that Nakumura discovered Shezi, albeit high on Zulu moonshine, (now a great artisanal beer called ZULU BLONDE) making this first Mpunzi solo exhibition all the more important, possibly even improbable.
Part of the exhibition sublimates itself to an installation, an artful presentation of found, (some stolen) objects, “The Mpunzi Shezi Museum”. Which is not really a family show.
Mpunzi, on his way back from Yokohama was drawn not only by the promise of a cheap flophouse named ‘Indian Delights’ in Goa but also by the prospect of carting his newly invented electric vibrator machine (bulky but effective) across the Ganges up the mountains to serve the women, and all this in the hopes of making some money. He who laughs loudest is sometimes on his way to the bank.
Peter Machen wisely added in a blog… “It is of course a load of horse-shit, but Engblom has constructed his protagonist’s world so convincingly that a certain woman, who is not too fond of him, commented that Mpunzi Shezi is so interesting, it’s just a pity that Peter Engblom discovered him”.
The archives note that, “Before parting Nakumura scribbled his Japanese address on a scrap of paper and invited Mpunzi to work as a rickshaw puller in his home town Toyohashi. He had decided that a little snake oil business would do well in Japan. The two men parted friends promising to write to each other.
Fortunately for travelogue addicts Mpunzi is back from his aimless wanderings down Geisha lane (some call them underground bondage clubs) in Toyohashi having finally found his way home to Durban via Goa, India.
Shezi’s new travelogue begins in a riotous suspension of disbelief, which given my mediocrity of imagination totally works.
Who is Peter Engblom:
• A former yacht-broker (by trade).
• A museum designer by necessity.
• The man responsible for the now infamous Mpunzi Shezi, the first Zulu missionary who went to Japan at the turn of the century and brought back Zen to the Zulus.
• A descendant of the original Scandinavian. (Specifically Norwegian, Lapp actually), missionaries who evangelised Zululand a century and a half ago. His ancestors established a mission outpost in Zululand at the turn of the last century.
• A professional snake catcher.
• He studied photography at the Bavarian State Institute in Munich. Before returning to Zululand, (like Mpunzi).
• Born on a sugar plantation.
• He designs lots of public museums, meaningful and otherwise.
• Has held a number of solo and group exhibitions. His work is represented in major, and minor collections, everywhere.
• He describes his work as 'the Celestine Prophecy meets Mad Magazine’. He also designed the suitcases for Big Brother.
• The creative Director for Durban’s bid to win (which it did) the upcoming UIA 2014 Architectural congress.