Azaria Mbatha was born in 1941. Azaria was educated at a mission school for eight years. In 1961 he left Ceza Secondary School and began working as a clerk in Vryheid. In 1962 Mbatha met Peder Gowenius and 'asked if he could attend' the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) Art and Craft Centre, which at that time was attended mainly by female students. Gowenius agreed and so, first at Umpumulo (later known as Mapumulo) and then at the Centre's permanent home at Rorke's Drift, Mbatha was introduced to art and supplied with materials. Mbatha became interested in drawing although it was not considered a 'useful' technique and therefore was not encouraged at the Centre. Mbatha was awarded a scholarship and studied art at Konst Fack Art School in Stockholm between 1965 and 1967. It was here that he began working with the etching technique.
He also worked on murals and designed tapestries using lino- and woodcut techniques. In 1968, he returned to South Africa and introduced screen print textile printing at Rorke's Drift during a brief teaching spell there. In 1970 Mbatha returned with his family to Sweden, where he still lives. Beginning in 1973 he studied for the Student Examination (matric equivalent) which he passed in 1976. Mbatha studied Fine Arts at the University of Lund from 1977 to 1979. On completion of this degree he continued studying social sciences at the same university.
1965: DAM (Art SA Today). Durban Municipal Library foyer (solo). 1966: Pretoria (Republic Festival Exhibition). Payne Brothers Department Store, Durban (group). 1967: DAM (Art SA Today). 1968: Cape Town (solo). 1969: Gallery 21 (solo). Camden Arts Centre, London, UK (Contemporary African Art). DAM (Art SA Today). 1970: National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden. 1971: Holland; Belgium; West Germany (SA Graphic Art). DAM (Art SA Today). 1972: Goodman Gallery (SA Graphics 1972). 1973: DAM (Art SA Today). 1976: Brooklyn Museum and Public Library, New York, USA (Black SA Contemporary Graphics). 1979: NSA—tour (group). SANG (SA Printmakers). 1980: African Art Centre, Durban. 1981: Jabulani Standard Bank, Soweto (Black Art Today). 1982: SAAA, Pretoria (solo). Bradford, UK (International Print Biennale). 1983: Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA (Prints from the Block: Gauguin to Now). 1984: Bradford, UK (International Print Biennale). 1986: WITS (New Acquisitions). Gallery 21 (Contemporary African Art Selected Works from the Pelmama Permanent Art Collection). 1987: TAG (Rorke's Drift Fine Art School in Retrospect). SANG (Contemporary SA Prints and Drawings). 1988: NellYperifanos Gallery, New York, USA (solo).
1965: Art SA Today (Cambridge Shirt award). 1966: Konst Fack Art School, Stockholm, Sweden (prize/scholarship). 1982: Bradford Print Biennale (prize).
urals in Rorke's Drift Dining Room; Lutheran Church, Vryheid; Esiqhomeni Church, Eshowe; Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Vosloorus Township, Transvaal.
Collections: Bradford Art Galleries and Museums, UK; DAM; JAG; KC; King George VI; Maimo Museum, Stockholm, Sweden; Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden; PAM; Sandton Town Council; SANG; TAG; UNTSA; UZ; WHAG;WITS.