- A famed South African artist still lives in the same village she was raised in
- Her work has been showcased in galleries and museums around the world
- She paints with chicken feathers
An internationally renowned South African artist, who paints her creations with chicken feathers, still remains fairly untouched by her fame, living in the same village she was born in.
81-year old Esther Mahlangu’s creations have been exhibited in major art galleries and museums around the world, including Paris’ Pompidou and London’s British Museum.
Her bright geometric styles, inspired by classic motifs from her culture, the Ndebele tribe, are visually impacting by their beauty and graphic style between the ultra modern and the traditional.
Mahlangu has always been keen on preserving her ethnic Ndebele culture. “I don't want it to get lost with civilization," she says. The painting skills she uses have been passed down for generations; she has no formal art training background.
"I am an ordinary Ndebele woman, doing what I was taught by my mother and grandmother," Mahlangu comments.
She started decorating mud huts, but as her fame mounted, after she was “discovered” in 1989 by a French researcher, her designs were set on shoes, luxury cars and even liquor bottles, all becoming spectacular commercial hits.
While at home, she does her daily chores like any other woman from her town. "Working with famous people has not changed me," she admits, while still wearing her traditional dresses, unlike many of the rest in the village, who now dress in contemporary clothing. She nevertheless did “modernize” her painting tools, changing from cow dung dyes to acrylic paint, for example.
This year, there will be a major exhibition on Mahlangu’s art in Johannesburg, showing some of her most recent works.