- ESTHER MAHLANGU
21 February– 24 March 2012
The recent record attendance at the Art
in the Streets exhibition at MOCA LA,
heralded a renewed interest in Street Art.
There is clearly a rising fascination with
art making in urban spaces - often by anonymous
artists – as people attempt to become
familiar with an increasingly urban environment.
The personal motivation for these artistic
impulses is ubiquitous; it is either to beautify
dilapidated urban spaces or to provide some
form of social commentary in the form of paintings
and tags. Far from being a new phenomenon,
Street Art is in many ways a re-emergence
of mankind’s earliest artistic impulses.
It is largely thanks to these impulses that
we have knowledge of prehistoric or extinct
peoples, compelled to document stories of
hunts, rituals and daily activities on cave
OVERLAY – “to cover the
surface with a decorative layer or design;
revealing or connecting elements” -
finds itself amongst these artistic and social
events: redefining spaces and environments,
both familiar and unfamiliar; documenting
the past and the present. South Africa has
a rich history of these artistic forms, most
notably amongst the cultural histories of
the Koi and San, and later the Zulu and Ndebele.
The last also later used these traditions
as a form of silent protest against their
forced displacement by the apartheid regime,
especially by using bright colours and geometric
patterns to decorate their houses.
Esther Mahlangu has an established reputation
for pioneering and promoting traditional African
techniques in contemporary art. Trained since
childhood in the Ndebele artistic tradition,
she is best known for abstract works in her
signature Ndebele idiom. During her long career
Mahlangu has travelled extensively and exhibited
with numerous international artists. In recent
years her works has also come to include traces
of more contemporary influences. One of the
highlights of Mahlangu’s career remains
the BMW she painted in the traditional Ndebele
style in 1991. The work remains a prime exhibit
in the BMW Art Cars Collection in Germany,
alongside others by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy
Warhol and David Hockney.
Since her last Cape Town show she has exhibited
in various countries and was also the official
artist representing South Africa in Italy
during the last Soccer World Championship.
At seventy seven years of age, Mahlangu continues
working and teaching, spending her precious
time in between international exhibitions
and her home in Mabhoko, Mpumalanga making
art. Apart from this, Mahlangu also makes
time to decorate her house in the traditional
Ndebele style, attracting visitors from around
the world to her village.
Collectors of Esther’s work have shown
increasing interest in her sculptural works
and 34FineArt is delighted to include several
painted objects in Overlay. Avail
yourself of this opportunity to acquire one
of these works, while they are still affordable.
A limited edition silkscreen print will also
melding traditional artistic practices with
contemporary concerns, Mahlangu has successfully
expanded the traditional Ndebele craft of
house decoration taught to her by her mother
and grandmother into the world of fine art.
Her work celebrates the rich and evolving
cultural spaces of the South African landscape,
and has rightly achieved a special place in
the South African art world.
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