Live Auction, 7 October 2019
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About this Item
‘The art of Esther Mahlangu is part of the Ndebele peoples’ ongoing struggle to maintain their identity and independence, under extreme conditions. From the early 1800s, they were subjected to sieges, attacks and battles, mainly by white settlers contesting ownership of the land. In 1883, the Ndebele were defeated altogether – partially being starved out of their hiding places – and adults and children were forced to become farm labourers and servants. In the early 1900s the men were a vital source of migrant labour, becoming workers on the mines. Mahlangu’s work is an attempt to regain the Ndebele’s sense of their cultural identity. She draws on traditional Ndebele wall painting, geometric and decorative, the shapes and images were said to carry symbolic meanings and messages about the inhabitants of the houses. Esther Mahlangu emerged as a master painter of this style. Creative and highly innovative, her paintings caught the eye of several curators. Her work has been shown around the world [the most important, her inclusion in the Magicians of the Earth exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1989], and she has received commissions to paint her designs on walls, cars [notably on the BMW525i series in 1991] and even aeroplanes. But her method has always remained the same: she paints without plans, without either under-drawings or sketches. She simply begins at one end, and continues to the other end, painting straight lines with a steady hand, and creating forms with a perfect, instinctive sense of balance and confidence.’1
- Ruth Sack. (2018) Adventuring into Art: Book 6 – Warzones, Johannesburg: Imbali Visual Literacy Project. Pages 54 and 55.