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FOTAG Focus Articles

For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.

Home > Articles > Fotag Focus > The Inyanga, Joseph Manana

The Inyanga

oil on board

Joseph Manana (b.1964)

by Muzi Sibiya

The Inyanga, Joseph Manana

One of my favourite paintings hangs in the Perimeter Gallery of the Tatham. It is entitled The Inyanga and the artist is Joseph Manana. In the foreground is the inyanga (or witch doctor), dressed in patched European clothes, in the process of injecting his frightened patient, dressed only in torn pants, with a modern looking syringe. On the ground beside him lie an assortment of medical instruments - some European, like medicine bottles and some tribal, like the fur whisk.

A contented looking dog sits to one side of the painting, ignoring the chickens which scratch in the soil near to him. In the other corner of the painting, the inyanga's wife, dressed in shabby European clothes, sits on the ground, her eyes modestly downcast, holding her two small children and watching a large pot of food which is cooking over a wood fire. Two humble huts stand next to each other behind her.

In the background is a barbed wire fence and behind the fence graze healthy looking cattle. One presumes that the land behind the fence is part of a farm owned by a prosperous white farmer and that the inyanga has built his huts just outside the farmer's property in order that the farm labourers will make use of his services. Probably his patient is a worker on the farm. Obviously the inyanga's earnings are modest, for, while the family appear not to be in need, there is certainly no evidence of prosperity. Yet they seem happy enough.

I found the placing of this painting quite interesting. Just below it hangs a painting by a British artist, Edgar Hunt, entitled AA Happy Family@. In a rather formalised, old fashioned manner, this depicts a mother hen obviously absorbed with her chickens. The styles of the two paintings are quite different as are their depictions of rural scenes. Hunt observes the fussing mother hen and her chicks in sentimental fashion. Manana sees them merely as part of the scene he depicts in a fairly impersonal way. If, however, one studies his painting for long enough, one realizes that it carries an abundance of hidden meaning.

More FOTAG Focus Articles


Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.