Born on the 11th of November in Middleburg Mpumalanga, 1935, 81 years old South African Ndebele artist has gone on to stun the world over and over again with her mural painting skills. This painting skill has been an integral part of her and the community she originates from; a cultural tradition of her native Ndebele people, particular to the females. Esther Mahlangu became well known for her bold contemporary paintings that were passed down through to her culturally at the age of 10 by generations of women that preceded her – her mother, who in turn learned it from her grandmother.
The year 1991 had it big for Mahlangu, this was after she first gained international acclaim in 1989 at an European art exposition Magiciens de la terre(Magicians of the WOrld. In 1991, Mahlangu was commissioned by BMW to create an Art Car following a series of Art Car creators for the brand. For this work, Mahlangu has been recognized to be the first the first African, and female to design one of these Art Cars.
Using colourful geometric patterns ascribed to Mahlangu’s paintings and on a largescale the paintings of the Ndebele tribe, Mahlangu designed the BMW525i which was recognized as the first African Art Car.Ever since then and as she grew older in age, Mahlangu has gone on to conquer the world of contemporary art both locally and internationally. From reproducing designs on the tails of British Airways Planes in 1997, down to 2016 when she joined forces with luxury Vodka Brand, Belvedere alongside singer, John Legend on the fight against AIDS, designing a limited edition bottle for the #MakeADifference campaign.
More recently, and 25years after her first collaboration with BMW designing the first African Art Car, Mahlangu, now 81 has for the second time conjoined with BMW and the automaker’s series, a collaboration in which she, Mahlangu, transforms luxury Sedan, the BMW 7 Series by painting her boldly patterned geometric motifs on the real wooden interior trims.
To paint is in my heart and it’s in my blood. The way I paint was taught to me by my mother and my grandmother. The images and colours have changed and I have painted on many different surfaces and objects but I still love to paint. The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint, I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I start by painting the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy as the design follows the lines of the panels. My art has taken me all over the world and I have seen many places, I have painted many walls and objects and my work is in many museums but I am still Esther Mahlangu from Mpumalanga in South Africa. My heart was full of joy when BMW asked me again to paint for them
These collaboration(s) which at best said has been a prestigious honour to not just to Mahlangu alone but also to BMW and the other international brands she has provides her services to. It whips up so many salient narratives of cultural preservation of integration and of diversification. It shows the prevalence of Art in our society not minding generational gap or the times, or place; as that somewhat [powerful but invincible cord that brings technology and culture into the same space.
Art speaks one language, art is universal.