ESTHER Mahlangu 2003

Tuesday 4th of  November 18h30
till 22 November 2003

Rosebank, Cape Town
Internationally renowned artist Esther Mahlangu will have her first ever Solo-exhibition in South Africa during the month of November.

Not many artists working within the Ndebele culture break away from convention. The majority avoids stress and conflict by remaining well within the comfort zone of known designs. Esther has set herself apart with her objective to show the world her painting. Like this one, all her international exhibitions have presented her with unique and new challenges which she has approached bravely without discarding the constraints of her traditional culture.

Born in 1935, Esther lives in the village of Weltevrede (Afrikaans for well satisfied) in the KwaMahlanga district in Mpumalanga Province. Whenever she is not touring or exhibiting overseas, she stays at home, walking around the house barefoot, tending her small patch of corn and keeping busy with what she likes most, painting.

89 x 140 cm
Natural pigment and acrylic on canvas 2003
Various factors have altered Esther Mahlangu's art over the last few years although she has personally remained unchanged by her artworld 'discovery', which happened in 1989. Exposure- to new materials, different techniques and to the collecting artworld - has brought about new reasoning behind her work. In 1991, she was invited to paint a prototype of the new BMW 525i model. Esther's car, eleventh in the Art Car Collection, was the first to be decorated by a woman artist and as a black woman artist from a little-known South African community to be included in a prestigious international artistic line-up of artists including Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and David Hockney made this fact all the more exceptional. 

Image: BMW AG Public Relations, Germany
Although her stylistic vocabulary is deeply embedded in memory and tradition, innovation plays an important part in Esther's art making. Works in various styles and media ranging from cow dung and natural pigment on canvas, beadwork, sculpture and ceramics will be on view. The piece de resistance of the exhibition, however, will undoubtedly be Esther herself who will be at the opening in traditional dress - a living installation and performance piece! To coincide with the exhibition, world-renowned artist Zwelethu Mthethwa will celebrate Esther and Ndebele culture by the release of a new limited edition photograph.

Esther's other passion in life is to educate and teach not only people from around the world about her culture and art but also the local girls, ensuring that this fragile culture won't disappear. 
She is a remarkable woman who against all odds, travelled and exhibited overseas in 1989, a time when political turmoil at home and sanctions abroad made international participation only a dream for all but a few South African artists. The fact that this exhibition is staged in the house of one of our most renowned artists accentuates the significance of Esther Mahlangu in her own country. Irma Stern, who found inspiration from Africa and its people, would certainly have approved. 


90 x 140 cm
Acrylic on canvas 2002
The exhibition will open on Tuesday night 4 November 2003 at 18h30 and will close on 22 November 2003 at the UCT Irma Stern Museum, Cecil road, Rosebank, Cape Town. Gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10h00-17h00. For more information the Gallery can be contacted at 021 685 5686. Images for publication are available on request.