Esther Mahlangu

POSTED IN Art, Art history, Culture, Drawn art, Folk art
By Tobijulo Onifade
Esther Mahlangu is an 82-year-old South African female artist known for her Ndebele cultural art/murals. Armed with bright colours and geometrical shapes and patterns (done by hand, no ruler), Ms Mahlangu works have adorned different surfaces.


Picture by Seagram Pearce,


She started painting at the age of 9, taught by her mother and grandmother according to the customs of the Southern Ndebele people. While men were busy with different tasks, it was the duty of the females/wives to paint the exterior of the home (a way of bringing out their individuality and more). Esther Mahlangu’s patterns and colours are gotten from the accessories (beads) and clothing of the Ndebele people.


Esther Mahlangu, ‘Gateway’, 2005 (Image courtesy Museum of Modern Art, Equatorial Guinea) (


She was first internationally acclaimed at the Magicians de la terre (Magicians of the World) exposition in 1989, where she created murals for the event. In 1991, she was approached by BMW to create an art car and is the first female to be honored that role. Other artists to be given the same honour are David Hockney, Andy Warhol and so on. She painted the patterns/art of her people on this car and it was exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington DC.


BMW Art car (Wikipedia)


Esther Mahlangu has since taken part in more exhibitions and art events but her focus these days is education and the preservation of her culture and heritage. She has a school her hometown in Mathombothiini (Weltevreden) in the Kwamhlanga district in Mpumalanga Province. These days she teaches both boys and girls the art of the Ndebele (as culture has evolved for both men and women). Although the culture of painting homes has sort of died down due to people moving the city and what not, Ms Mahlangu, still does her part by educating those still around and taking her art outside as well.
Her goal at the moment is to transfer knowledge the generations after her, to let them know who they are, what the art represents to them and so much more.


this article
5,174Total views