Esther Mahlangu (b. 1935), one of South Africa’s most esteemed artists, is celebrated for her vibrant geometric creations inspired by traditional Ndebele designs. Born and raised in the Ndebele community, Mahlangu’s journey as an artist began while painting houses, a task customarily entrusted to women. Her mastery of linework and patterns was honed during this early experience.
Esther Mahlangu gained international recognition when her iconic abstract artworks were featured in the Centre Pompidou’s landmark 1989 group exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre (Magicians of the Earth).” At this event, she captivated audiences by meticulously replicating her own Ndebele-style house, showcasing her exceptional talent to the world.
In 1991, Mahlangu achieved an extraordinary milestone as she became the first woman and the first African artist to be commissioned to paint a BMW Art Car. Her artistic influence has transcended traditional boundaries, with collaborations that span across brands as diverse as Belvedere, British Airways, and Rolls-Royce. Her artwork is not only sought after by art enthusiasts but also finds its place in the private collections of renowned celebrities, including John Legend, Oprah Winfrey, Trevor Noah, and Swizz Beatz.
Esther Mahlangu continues to reside in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, where she remains deeply connected to her roots. There, she passionately imparts her knowledge of Ndebele painting and beadwork to the next generation of emerging artists.