Esther Mahlangu


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Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu was born in 1935 on a farm near Middelburg in Mpumalanga Province. Esther’s mother, like her grandmother and great grandmother before her, was a simple woman who looked after her family and occupied herself with traditional wall painting and beadwork. During winter most of the Ndebele women kept themselves busy by doing decorations in the surrounding areas, vying to outperform each other with their painting skills. Their designs were austere and uncluttered, handed down by tradition from one generation to the next. Drawings and paintings were done with fingers since brushes were unknown in the early days.

Mahlangu, works in the traditional Ndebele style of bold, geometric patterns executed on a very large scale. In the late-nineteenth century, the Ndebele women painted the exteriors of their houses in this style as an expression of identity and pride. Over the years, with the development of commercial paints, the original earth tones created from natural pigments have changed to a brighter palette. Mahlangu is the first woman and only non-Westerner to paint one of the BMW Art Cars, following in the footsteps of the likes of Warhol and Lichtenstein.

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Softcover, 48 pp, 20 x20 cm