Few African artists have achieved as much prominence on the international stage as Mahlangu, otherwise known as Mam’Esther. South African-born Esther Mahlangu is a Ndebele artist well-known for her bright and bold murals, a hallmark of Ndebele culture. Born in 1935, Esther began her artistic journey in beadwork and practicing traditional art by painting huts while utilizing feathers and twigs as brushes. From these humble beginnings, Mahlangu took the art world by storm when her work was documented by French researchers and when she went on to become the first African to paint a BMW Art Car (the BMW 525i model) in 1999.
Mahlangu has travelled around the world to showcase her art. Her work has been featured everywhere from Tokyo to Rome and has since been showcased in esteemed locales such as The Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) of Jean Pigozzi. Her work has even been featured on British Airways planes. Mahlangu is also the resident artist at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, and produced two commissioned mural paintings in 2014 where the public was allowed to watch as she worked.
The art world veteran celebrated her 80th birthday on November 11, 2015 by opening a solo exhibition titled, Esther Mahlangu, at the Irma Stern UCT Museum. Additionally, she directs the Esther Mahlangu Ndebele Art School that works towards teaching traditional painting to girls, and continues to work tirelessly to promote and express herself through Ndebele art.