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Renowned artist Esther Mahlangu’s BMW art car returns to SA after 32 years, to grace Cape Town’s Iziko Museum

This article first appeared in on 18 November 2023.

Ndebele artist and international icon, Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu, who was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2018, will once again be in the spotlight as the 12th BMW Art Car she painted in 1991 comes back to the country after 32 years.

The 1991 BMW 525i painted by Esther Mahlangu

Dr Mahlangu, a multi-award winning artist, was recognised by UJ for her legacy as a cultural entrepreneur and an educator.

Dr Mahlangu began painting as a child. At the age of 10, her mother and grandmother in accordance with tradition taught her the art of Ndebele homestead wall painting and beadwork. Her work came to international attention in 1989 after her inclusion in the important exhibition Magiciens de la terre, held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

When the heritage custodian painted the 525i model for the BMW Art Car Series, she was the first woman and the first person from outside Europe or the United States to do so.

Esther Mahlangu, accepted an honorary doctoral degree from UJ on 09 April 2018.

The Art Car is set to arrive in South Africa in 2024 and will be on show at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town for one year before it heads to the USA and the UK.

In conversation with Cape Talk’s Lester Kiewit, Chris Moerdyk, former head of strategic planning at BMW said the Art Car Series included cars painted by the likes of icons including Andy Warhol.

“The Esther Mahlangu design is just so different. It is a geometric Ndebele patterning. The South African car was well received wherever it went. It was so colourful and different. The first time it went abroad it went to Australia and it was a great experience,” said Moerdyk.

Moerdyk said the Art Car Series was always intended to be a travelling exhibition around the world.

Listen to the backstory of the BMW Art Car Series here:

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