Meet 85-Year-Old South African Artist, Dr. Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu

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The 85-Year-old South African artist, decorates cars and houses in an exotic and exceptional way.

Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 on a farm outside Middleburg, in what is now the Mpumalanga province.

Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu is a woman of many names. “Dr. Mahlangu, Mam Esther, Esther Mahlangu, Gogo, Mother, Daughter of Africa,”

Esther Mahlangu is a South African artist from the Ndebele nation. She is known for her bold large-scale contemporary paintings that reference her Ndebele heritage. Esther Mahlangu was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of Johannesburg, 9 April 2018.

Esther Mahlangu paints bold, geometric canvases inspired by the patterns and palettes of Ndebele house painting and beadwork. Mahlangu’s pioneering use of the crafts of her Ndebele people of south-eastern Africa has brought her huge success on the world’s art markets. She is globally acclaimed for her bright and bold abstract paintings that are inspired by Ndebele design.

Mahlangu was the first person to transfer the traditional Ndbele style of mural painting to canvas. She painted her geometric patterns on a BMW 525i in 1991, becoming the twelfth artist and first woman to take part in the BMW Art Car Project after figures such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. In the years that followed she exhibited work in countries around the world, from Mexico to Switzerland to Australia.

With the goal of preserving her cultural heritage, Mahlangu started an art school in the backyard of her home in Mabhoko (Weltevreden) in the KwaMhlanga district in Mpumalanga Province. She funded the school herself, and when not travelling for exhibitions she mentors young artists in the traditional style of Ndebele design. Pupils learn how to mix pigments and paint straight lines, freehanded and without sketches, using their fingers or chicken feathers.

Mahlangu’s work is featured in collections in South Africa, the United States, Japan, Germany, France and elsewhere. Her awards include the South African government’s Order of Ikhamanga, silver class, in 2006, as well as the Mpumalanga Arts and Culture Award, an award from the French Ministry of Culture, two awards from Radio Ndebele and others from South Africa and abroad

©️ “Esther Mahlangu: Updated CV.”

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