Cape Town - South African multi-award winning painter Esther Mahlangu, well-known for her artistic depictions of the Ndebele, is celebrating her 85th birthday month with an online solo exhibition that is pulling in the big bucks.
The exhibition, titled “Esther Mahlangu 85”, is curated by Ruzy Rusike and runs from November 19 to December 20, 2020 on the Melrose Gallery website.
Among the most pricey pieces on display and on offer is “Homestead”, done on acrylic canvas and going for a healthy R223,670 (about US$14,600). The lowest priced artwork is priced at R80,521 (about U$5,200).
Of course, prices may go up if bidders battle over a particular painting.
But it is not just about the prices. It is about the impressive cultural richness of the work – something Mahlangu has become famous for in her decades of painting.
Mahlangu started painting at age 10 and though she turned 85 on November 11, she has no plans of putting down her brush and packing away her easel.
“I was born with this gift. It's within me. It's ancestral. That's what made me hang on to it. So I told myself I could never lose what I was blessed with,” she told South African media last week.
Her work is highly spoken of internationally, and is part of high profile collections such as those of Gervanne and Matthias Leridon, Jean Pigozzi, Isaac Shongwe, Larry Warsh, Swizz Beatz, Sovereign Art Foundation and Michael Xufu Huang. Among her other big celebrity fans are Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Usher, who have all bought her paintings.
From her rural home in Mpumalanga, Mahlangu spends much time collaborating with galleries, museums, curators and festivals in cities across the world.
Her work comes on canvas, walls, ceramic and clothing – and even cars, aeroplanes, bicycles, motorbikes and skateboards.
Mahlangu has two honorary doctorates, and is an Officer of Arts and Letters, which is France's highest individual honour for the arts. South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture has published a book in her honour, and she has been recognised by the United Nations for her contributions to humanity.
This year she became the first artist in the world to be commissioned to do artwork for Rolls-Royce Phantom Gallery, and it was fitting named “The Mahlangu”.
In an interview with UK paper the Guardian, she urged Africans to celebrate their culture.
“I am surprised that people are running away from their own culture. Our culture is good. The importance of our culture is to know where they are coming from. The children, the grandchildren must know which roots they are coming from. If the young children don’t learn from the elders, then everything will vanish.”