Gogo Esther Mahlangu is believed to be the foremost important Ndebele artist working today. From painting walls with feathers and twigs in Mabhoko Village to doing a paint job on a BMW for a replacement New York gallery.
Gogo Esther Mahlangu was taught to color by her mother and grandmother at the age of 10 and underwent the normal Ndebele practice within which young women are cloistered from society for some months and taught the normal craft of beadwork. She has since became an expert and an authority in executing the standard Ndebele art of mural in South Africa; an kind traditionally only done by women on special occasions. These early lessons would later function a training ground for her artistic career and to the current day she remains faithful the Ndebele traditions because she doesn’t want them to fade.
Gogo Esther has become internationally recognized for her work and over the years has received commissions from all round the world. She always travels in her neck-hands and leg steel bangles and told me that at airports they’re going to always search her.
What’s unique about Gogo’s work is that although it’s heavily rooted in tradition, she isn’t opposition evolving and expanding the sort. within the past, Ndebele painting was reserved for the outer walls of homes but Esther is one in every of the primary artists to transfer these traditional designs to canvas and other mediums – making her a Ndebele art pioneer.
In 1991, Esther coated the whole bodywork of a BMW 525i, for the primary time, with bright colours and clearly distinguishable geometric shapes typical of Ndebele tribal art. She was also the primary South African to own her work exhibited at the Museum of Arts and style in big apple in 2010.
Since then she has taken her work to the stratosphere having been commissioned to color the tail of a British Airways Boeing. In 2014 she also was commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts within the US to form two large works of art. Esther has began to transpose her art on canvas, shoes, sculptures, ceramics and other modern materials. What’s astounding about her work is that despite the various canvases she paints on; she still paints freehand without prior measurement or sketches and continues to use feathers and bundles of twigs as brushes – the old-school way.
Despite being an internationally recognized artist, Gogo still lives in Mabhoko Village in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga and does her chores like every ordinary Gogo within the village – sweeping her yard early within the morning, cooking and teaching teenagers Ndebele art.
A warm, good hearted and all the way down to earth woman – Esther understands that things change and culture evolves. Her story is one amongst legends and her contribution to the preservation and expansion of Ndebele artistic and cultural heritage is worth telling m times.
Below is a few of her artworks: