Once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Esther Mahlangu


Once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Esther Mahlangu

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Once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Esther Mahlangu

On from February to August 2024; 100+ artworks

Last updated: 7 March 2024

Globally acclaimed artist Esther Mahlangu is celebrating over 50 years of innovative art with a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, “Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting”: Esther Mahlangu, A Retrospective. The diverse collection showcases Mahlangu’s expansive oeuvre, including the iconic BMW 525i Art Car. The retrospective will be at the Iziko South African National Gallery from 18 February until 11 August 2024. 

The exhibition charts Mahlangu’s contribution to contemporary art close to seven decades. Image: Clint Strydom


Dr Esther Nostokana Nagiyana Nikwambi Mahlangu is a celebrated South African contemporary artist, known for her innovative work transferring traditional isiNdebele patterns onto canvas. 

Mahlangu began her artistic journey at the age of ten under the guidance of her grandmother and mother, learning the traditional techniques of isiNdebele mural painting. 

Her participation in the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre (1989) in Paris, shot her to fame. She has exhibited in over 20 countries, sometimes with multiple solo shows, and she’s painted murals across eight different countries.

Esther Mahlangu is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates for her contribution to art. Image: Clint Strydom


The monumental retrospective will be open to the public at the historic Iziko South African National Gallery. It highlights Mahlangu’s over 50-year long career and her meteoric rise as a contemporary artist, earning her global acclaim – having done global collaborations with the likes of BMW, British Airways, John Legend, Belvedere Vodka, The Smithsonian Museum, and many others.

The exhibition features over 100 artworks loaned from international collections, and is carefully curated alongside historic photographs and a short film. Some pieces include her iconic isiNdebele paintings, sculptures, ceramics and everyday objet trouvés.

Mahlangu’s work displays an inimitable fluency across diverse mediums. Image: Clint Strydom


One of the highlights of the exhibition is Mahlangu’s BMW 525i Art Car, which makes its historic return to South Africa for the first time in more than 30 years. Mahlangu’s collaboration with BMW, which began in 1991, marked her as the first woman and the first African artist to join the prestigious BMW Art Car Collection. 

From Iziko Museums the exhibit will begin its global tour, stopping first at Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, before moving to the United States in early 2026. 

The BMW is coated with the bright colours and distinguishable ornamental shape. Image: Nigel Pamplin


Esther Mahlangu, A Retrospective is on: 18 February to 11 August 2024
Iziko South African National Gallery: Daily, 9am - 5pm
Find it: 25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens
Entry cost: R40 for SA citizens; R60 standard fee
Contact on: 021 481 3800, @esthermahlanguart, izikomuseumssa

By Lara van Zyl



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