Lot 84
  • 84

Esther Mahlangu

4,000 - 6,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Esther Mahlangu
  • Male Torso 
  • acrylic and natural pigment on mannequin 


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner 


Cape Town, UCT Irma Stern Museum, Esther Mahlangu 80, 2015, illustrated in the catalogue p. 40

Catalogue Note

When arriving at Esther Mahlangu’s hometown of Weltevrede in South Africa, visitors are immediately alerted to the fact that they have reached the home of the Art Woman. ‘Esther is here, Esther est ici, The first woman who visited overseas’ reads the brilliantly coloured sign. Debuting on the international stage at the 1989 Magiciens de la Terre exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Esther Mahlangu has dedicated her life and practice to promoting Ndebele arts and culture both overseas and at home in South Africa.

Born in 1935, Esther was taught to paint by her mother and grandmother. As a child, the artist honed her skills by helping her female relatives paint decorative traditional Ndebele patterns on the walls of their homes.  Confined to practicing on the back walls until she improved her technique, Esther soon developed her own distinct style. Using fine chicken feathers as her tool of choice, the artist continues to reinvent Ndebele tradition by creating vibrantly coloured, large-scale geometric paintings that echo the traditional patterns used in Ndebele beadwork. Although still very much rooted in Ndebele culture, Mahlangu’s works fit in beautifully within a greater contemporary setting.

As the artist adorns this unconventional surface with her bold patterns, Male Torso perfectly exemplifies Mahlangu’s work as the meeting point of old and new, of traditional and contemporary. At 82 years old, Mahlangu has extensively widened the types of surfaces and objects on which she works, often partnering with some of the world’s most renowned commercial companies. The most notable of these relationships being Mahlangu’s 1991 partnership with BMW’s Art Car Series, an initiative whose past participants include artists such as Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. The result of this relationship was featured as a highlight of the recent British Museum exhibition, South Africa: The Art of a Nation.