She has partnered with some of the biggest international brands, she founded a school in her home town, she has graced magazine covers and she earned an honorary doctorate. At 83 years old, Dr Esther Mahlangu continues to prove her creative brilliance and is indeed a national treasure. 

Here are four notable things about Dr Esther that makes us proud to be South African:

An art veteran

Dr Esther learned traditional Ndebele wall painting and beadwork as a child. According to SA History, she became an expert in painting murals as a teenager, using a widening range of paint colours that emerged in the 1940s.

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In 1989, she travelled to France to create murals for an exhibition of international contemporary art, the Magiciens de la Terre (‘Magicians of the World’), says the article.

Pays it forward

Dr Esther started an art school in the backyard of her home in Mpumalanga with the goal of preserving her cultural heritage. According to this article, the school is self-funded and she mentors young artists in the traditional style of Ndebele design in painting straight lines, freehand and without sketches.

Making history

Dr Esther was the first person to transfer the traditional Ndebele style of mural painting to canvas, according to SA History. Wheels24 reported that 26 years ago, she was the first woman to create artwork on a BMW 525i Sedan – and was commissioned once again by the BMW Group to refine a BMW 7 Series. 

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Grand honours

In April, Dr Esther was conferred with an honorary doctorate from the University of Johannesburg for her legacy as a cultural entrepreneur and educator, City Press reported. The article notes that she received recognition for her artistic flair and striking Ndebele patterns.

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Before this, in 2006, Dr Esther was honoured with a Presidential award – The Order of Ikhamanga in silver – for her “Excellent contribution to the development of the indigenous Ndebele arts”. According to the Presidency, she has promoted the Ndebele culture with integrity and sensitivity, and subsequently carved out a rich career in art.

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Now, at 83 years old, Dr Esther Mahlangu continues to be South Africa's pride.

There are many but we need more women and men preserving our heritage and traditions.

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