Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein will for the first welcome hundreds of art lovers from across the country to the City of Roses for Dr. Esther Mahlangu’s debut exhibition in the province.
‘Timeless – Between Matter and Spirit’, a solo exhibition by artist and global Ndebele cultural icon Mahlangu, takes place from May 24-June 23. Among others, the exhibition will offer a walkabout which affords art lovers the opportunity to see many of the icon’s different paintings.
Speaking ahead of the exhibition, art curator and writer Beathur Mgoza Baker who has followed Mahlangu’s work, stated this was one of the most sought out exhibitions in the country, referring to it as a must-see for art lovers.
Reflecting on the work, Baker said, “Her life defies chronology and her talent defies the conventions of Western art as a truly African articulation of our collective cultural heritage.”
She noted, “In South Africa, we embrace her as a national treasure, a wise elder and passionate, committed ambassador who has captivated the interest and imagination of the world with her gift, and her beautiful understanding of how art is central to our cultural identity as human beings. Even at the age of 83 years the iconic artist still continues producing work and creative interpretations of the sacred geometry and practices of Ndebele and African culture,” said the seasoned journalist and director/filmmaker.
Reflecting further, Baker said Mahlangu continues to travel the world regularly promoting her culture, and still paints prolifically when she is not teaching and passing on her valuable skills at the community art school for young people she started in her region.
“Her activism and commitment for over six decades has been grounded in taking her culture into the world,” Baker pointed out, adding that as a contemporary artist Mahlangu has evolved the tradition in modern ways and applied it to include award-winning work and expressions such as painting a luxury ‘art car’ in 1991 in partnership with BMW Art. The work was exhibited at the 1992 Documenta 9 in Kassel, Germany.
The Art Museum expressed great excitement ahead of the exhibition, saying in a statement that, “It’s not often one gets to witness the unique work of a global artist of her nature. Indeed we are beyond honored by her presence.”
Welcoming the veteran artist on Wednesday evening, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela said, “It was such an honour to host a woman of fortitude. Her spirit is so calming.”
Other paintings that saw Mahlangu occupy her rightful place in the world of art include her collaboration with Grammy Award-winning singer and Belvedere Red ambassador John Legend in raising funds for Aids.
Her Ndebele artwork was also displayed on the Belvedere bottles marked with the (Red) logo. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of the bottles go towards fighting Aids.
The Nelson Mandela tribute is counted among those that stand out. Mahlangu was presented with a series of six prints of drawings created by the late Nelson Mandela in 2001. She embellished the prints to create five paintings and a written motivation in 2004.
Last year, under the title ‘A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’, Mahlangu exhibited work which was well received by the art community.