Esther Mahlangu

Artist Info:

“I would continue to paint on the house when they left for a break, when they came back they would say: what have you done child? Never do that again! After that I started drawing on the back of the house, and slowly my drawings got better and better until they finally asked me to come back to the front of the house. Then I knew I was good at painting."

Dr Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 in Middelburg in Mpumalanga. She was taught the art of Ndebele design and house painting from her mother and grandmother as is tradition in Ndebele culture.

She was a disruptor and visionary from an early age, incurring the wrath of her elders by painting over their wall paintings. She was told to practice on the back of houses but her innate skill was soon clear to see and Dr Mahlangu is a source of great pride to the Ndebele nation as their most globally acclaimed artist and ambassador.

Dr Mahlangu was the first person to reimagine Ndebele design on more contemporary mediums and this has led to her painting anything from planes, cars, motorbikes and bicycles to pots, canvas, walls, mannequins and even war helmets.

Although she had already built a strong reputation in South Africa, her international break through was in 1989 when she was invited to participate in ‘Les Magiciens de la Terre, an exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France. For this exhibition she painted a model of her house in Mpumalanga which was viewed by massive audiences.

In 1991 she became the first lady and first African to be invited to participate in the BMW Art Car Collection amongst other notables of the likes of Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein and Frank Stella.

Whilst firmly grounded in and immensely proud of her Ndebele culture and choosing to live in her homestead in rural Mpumalanga and wear traditional Ndebele dress, Dr Mahlangu is a woman of the world. She has and continues to spend extensive time in many of the world’s largest and most modern cities collaborating with leading museums, curators, art fairs, celebrities and global brands.

Dr Mahlangu has collaborated on many high profile projects including John Legend and Belvedere Vodka to raise money for the fight against HIV in Africa, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Fiat, BMW, British Airways, South African Airways, Eytys Sneakers for Paris Fashion Week and Freshpak Rooibos amongst numerous others.

During her illustrious career, spanning 3 decades, she has developed an almost pop icon status of her own. Her works grace the collections of the likes of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys for the Dean Collection, Usher, John Legend, Trevor Noah, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Black Coffee amongst numerous other pop stars who recognize her unflinching dedication to her artform and practice.

Many leading museums, private collectors and corporates have also acquired her works including the Smithsonian Institute, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Centre Georges Pompidou,  Museum Bochum, Musee des Beaux Arts, Iziko South African National Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Jean Pigozzi, the Sovereign Art Foundation and the World Bank amongst numerous others who understand her invaluable contribution to contemporary art.

Dr Mahlangu richly deserves her many accolades and awards which date as far back as 1988. These include the receipt of two honorary doctorates in 2018 and an appointment as ‘Office of Arts and Letters’ the highest recognition for contribution to the arts from France and an award from the United Nations in 2019. In 2007 she received ‘The Order of Ikhamanga’ from the President of South Africa.

 Throughout her life she has steadfastly advocated for the promotion and preservation of Ndebele culture. This has led to her commitment to educating and passing her skills to the younger generation via her self-funded art school at her homestead.

Dr Mahlangu appointed The Melrose Gallery as her global gallery representative. 

  • Date of birth: 1935
  • Birth Place: South African
  • Residence: Mpumalanga

Artworks by Esther Mahlangu

CV of Esther Mahlangu

Dr. Esther Mahlangu – Exhibition, Awards and Collector’s List

Dr. Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 and has been painting for over 74 years. She has spent her life collaborating with leading museums, curators, art fairs, celebrities and global brands and many of these have acquired her works for their private, corporate and public collections.

This list presents a selection of the many exhibitions that she has participated in, awards that she has received and collections in which her works reside.

Solo Exhibitions

2020 Investec Cape Town Art Fair – Past/ Modern Section, Cape Town, SA
2020 ‘Dr Esther Mahlangu – Disrupting Patterns’, The Melrose Gallery, Cape Town, SA 2019 ‘Timeless', Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, SA
2019 ‘Timeless’ Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town, SA
2017 ‘A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’, The Melrose Gallery, Johannesburg, SA
2016 BMW Lounge, Frieze Art Fair, London, UK
2015 ‘Esther Mahlangu 80’, UCT Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, SA
2014 Esther Mahlangu: An Artistic Residency, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, USA 2012 ‘Overlay’, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2010 Centro Espositivo St. Art, Calenzano, Italy
2008 ‘Esther Mahlangu: Reacquiring’, The Kyle Kauffman Gallery, New York, USA
2007 ‘Esther Mahlangu’,34LONG, Cape Town,SA
2007 ‘Why Africa?’, Fiat 500, Turin, Italy
2005 Esther Mahlangu, 34LONG, Cape Town, SA
2003 ‘Esther Mahlangu 2003’, UCT Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, SA
1998 Museum of Oceanian and African Art, Paris, France

Selected Exhibitions

2019 Conflict Resolution Art, Athens, Greece
2019 ‘Timeless', One and Only, Cape Town, SA
2018 Public Commission. Three Murals - The Market Theatre foyer, Esther Mahlangu Boardroom

at Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, The Contemporary Market Square Complex,

Johannesburg, SA
2018 Group Exhibition, Museum of Arts and Design, New York , USA
2018 Not A Single Story, Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park, Cradle of Humankind, SA 2017 Imibala Gallery, Somerset West, SA
2016 South Africa -Artofa Nation, The British Museum, UK,
2016 New design - Belvedere(RED), NY, USA
2015 Amref Health Africa Artball: Celebrating Contemporary African Art, New York, USA 2015 Imibala Gallery, Somerset West, SA
2015 Sneaker design with Swedish Company Eytys, Paris Fashion Week, France
2015 40 years of BMW Art Cars, BMW Museum, Munchen, Germany
2014 Traditional African Murals, Museum of African Art, Belgrade, Serbia
2014 Look Mickey!, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2014 Les Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
2014 Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

2014 Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town, SA

2013 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, UK
2013 Urban Interpretation, Graffik Gallery, London, UK
2013 FourWalls, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2012 Art Drive! Exhibition, Great Eastern Street Car Park in Shoreditch, London, UK
2012 Urban Interpretation, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2012 Blend, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2011 Durban Tourism Indaba, Durban, SA
2011 Ensemble, 34FineArt, Cape Town, SA
2011 ArtMonaco’1 1 , Monaco
2011 Museum of Arts and Design, New York, USA
2010 Africa. Objetos y Sujetos, TeatroFernan Gomez, Centro de Arte, Madrid, Spain
2010 ATASATrustSouthern Africa Handcraft & Ndebele Art Exhibition, Newtown, SA
2010 La mostra sulla Regina d’Africa Esther Mahlangu, Napoli, Italy
2010 MuseumofArts and Design, New YorkCity, USA
2010 FIFA,Official,Artist,Italy
2009 Sortileges, Fondation pour L’art Contemporain, Claudine et Jean-Marc Salomon, Alex, France 2009 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
2009 2010 Africa? Una nuova storia, Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy
2008 The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
2008 Denver Museum of Art, Denver, Colorado, USA
2008 Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA
2007 Why Africa?, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, Turin, Italy
2007 PaintedtheNewFiat500-“WhyAfrica?”,ThePigozziCollection,Italy
2007 SAArt--Signs,DanubianaMeulensteenArtMuseum,Bratislava,Slovakia
2007 Berlin and Beyond Art in Public Places, Florida, USA
2007 Durban Art Gallery, Durban, SA
2007 Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, USA
2007 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
2007 Tacoma Museum of Art, Tacoma, Washington, USA
2006 100% African; The Jean Pigozzi Contemporary African Art Collection, Guggenheim Museum,

Bilbao, Spain
2006 Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

2006 Memory Innovation Tradition, 34 LONG, Cape Town, SA
2006 Roppongi Hills Art Museum, Tokyo,Japan
2006 Beyond Lilith: The Sacred Feminine, Scuderie Aldobrandini Frascati, Roma, Italy 2005 Arts of

Africa, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco 2005 Yokohama Triennial, Japan

2005 New Identities Contemporary Art from South Africa, Pretoria Art Museum & Johannesburg Art Gallery, SA

2005 Galleria Spacia, Italy
2005 South Africa-USA Native American Exchange Project, Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe,

2005 Project Row Houses, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA

2005 African Art Now: Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,

2005 National Museum of African Art, The Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., USA

2004 NewIdentitiesContemporaryArtfromSouthAfrica,MuseumBochum, Germany 2004 New Orleans Jazz Festival, South African Stage, New Orleans, USA

2003 Dentro e Fuori le Mura, Fabbrica Eos, Milano, Italy
2002 Passport to South Africa, Centro Culturale Trevi, Bolzano, Italy 2002 The Art of Colour, Knysna

Fine Art Gallery, Knysna, SA
2001 Arte Africana Contemporanea, Galleria d’arte Spazia, Bologna, Italy

2001 Galleria Cavellini, Brescia, Italy
2001 SouthAfricaToday,TheHelsinkiFairCentre,Finland 2000 5th Biennale of Contemporary

Art, Lyons, France 2000 Dialogue of Cultures, EXPO 2000, Hannover, Germany 1999 The Three Rivers Art Festival, Pittsburgh, USA

1999 <>FAST FORWARD.ZA, VanReekum Museum, Apeldoorn, Netherland
1998 Solo Exhibition, Musee desArtsd’Afriqueet d’Oceanie, Paris, France
1998 Africa Africa: Vibrant New Artfrom aDynamic Continent, TobuMuseumof Art, Tokyo, Japan 1997 BA Airways Tail wing design, UK
1997 Exhibit Gallery, Philadelphia, USA
1997 York College, Los Angeles, California, USA
1997 Mural for National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Washington D.C., USA
1997 Ndebele Images - Then and Now, National Arts Club, New York, USA
1997 Oogop Zuidelijke Afrika, Het Afrika Museum, Bergen Dal, Netherlands
1997 Portalto America,Installation, Spoleto Festival,Charleston, South Carolina, USA
1997 African Immigrant Folklife Festival, Washington D.C., USA
1996 Parish Gallery, Georgetown, USA
1996 Exhibition fortheCongressional BlackCaucus, Washington D.C., USA
1996 Armour J. Blackburn Centre, Howard University, Washington D.C., USA
1996 World Bank, Washington D.C., USA
1996 Mural - Ministry of Finance Building, Pretoria, SA
1996 Mural - Alexandra Township Stadium, Johannesburg, SA
1995 BMW Art Cars and Paintings Exhibition, Sydney, Australia
1995 Group Exhibition, Market Theatre, Johannesburg, SA
1994 BMW Art Cars Collection, National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Washington D.C, USA 1994 Mural – National Museum in the Arts, Washington D.C, USA
1994 Mural - Ndebele College of Education, KwaNdebele, SA
1994 African Festival, Lisbon, Portugal
1994 European Inventive Business Travel Meetings Exhibition, Geneva, Switzerland
1994 Out of Africa, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, France
1992 CommedesGarcons,Tokyo,Japan;NewYork,USA;andParis,France
1992 Out of Africa, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK
1992 Fire Screen, Civic Theatre, Johannesburg, SA
1992 BMW Art Cars, Documenta 9, Kassel, Germany.
1992 Africa Hoy, Groninger Museum, Groningen, Netherlands.
1992 AfricaHoy,CulturalCentreofContemporaryArt,MexicoCity,Mexico.
1991 BMW Art Cars, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, SA.
1991 BMW Art Cars Commission, Germany.
1991 Painting columns in Building, Tokyo, Japan.
1991 Fashion Collection, Tokyo, Japan.
1991 Ny Afrikansk Billedkunst, Copenhagen, Denmark.
1991 Africa Hoy, Centro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, Las Palmas, de Gran Canaria, Spain.

1990 Caravan Auto Show, Lavante, France.
1990 Bordeaux Festival, Bordeaux, France.
1990 Mural Painting, Rosebank Shopping Centre, SA
1990 Mural Painting, Johannesburg School, SA.
1990 Centre de la Villette, Paris, France
1989 Centre de la Villette, Paris, France
1989 Fine Arts Museum, Angoulême, France
1989 Mural Painting, Musee des Beaux Arts, France
1989 Les Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France


The Dean Collection, USA
Isaac Shongwe Collection, SA
Mkhuseli Faku Collection, SA
Black Coffee Collection, SA
Trevor Noah Collection, SA/ USA
Usher Collection, USA
Larry Warsh Collection, USA
Ben Milstein Collection, USA
Sovereign Art Foundation, Switzerland
Meulensteen Art Museum, Bratislava, Slovakia
The Pigozzi Collection, Geneva, Switzerland
Johnnic Communications Management Services Collection, Johannesburg,
SA Museum Bochum, Bochum, Germany
South African National Gallery, Iziko Museums, Cape Town,
SA BROKER Art Collection, Belgium
BOE Bank, Cape Town, SA
Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris, France
Botshabelo Museum, Botshabelo, SA
BMW Art Cars Collection, Germany
World Bank Collection, USA
Museum of Modern Art, Equatorial Guinea BHP Billiton Collection, Johannesburg, SA Roppongi Hills Art Museum, Japan
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia, USA
Museum Bochum, Germany
Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria, SA
RE:CM Collection, Cape Town, SA
National Museum of Woman in the Arts, Washington D.C., USA
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Musee des Beaux Arts, France University of Cape Town, SA