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Honouring Esther Mahlangu In NYC, The 81-Year Old South African Artist Who Created The “Iconic BMW Art Car”

South African artist Esther Mahlangu has taken her famous colorful, tribal Ndebele designs to the world stage on various occasions and has become respected around the world for it.

The streets of New York will now bear the mark of the artist although not by her hand. Splashes of bold colors and prints are part of a mural that came up on September 12 in New York City to honor Esther Mahlangu.

This is Esther Mahlangu, the 81-year old Ndebele painter, who created the “iconic BMW Art car” and currently working in partnership with BMW in the making of the BMW Individual 7 series.

The BMW Individual 7 Series by Esther Mahlangu, which  is a right-hand drive vehicle; 20-inch BMW Individual light alloy wheels in V-spoke styling 649.

The monumental car has been unveiled at the BMW Lounge at Frieze in London.

While the regular BMW Individual 7 series is expected to sell for £71,000 in the U.K, the version featuring Muhlangu’s work will sell at about £200,000.

According to tradition, Ndebele women decorated the exterior walls of houses with elaborately painted patterns and graphic elements, symbolizing important events such as weddings or other celebrations, thus the walls are used as active communicative media within the community.

“To paint is in my heart and it’s in my blood. The way I paint was taught to me by my mother and my grandmother. The images and colors have changed and I have painted on many different surfaces and objects but I still love to paint. The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition to the essence of BMW. 


“My art has taken me all over the world and I have seen many places, I have painted many walls and objects and my work is in many museums but I am still Esther Mahlangu from Mpumalanga in South Africa. My heart was full of joy when BMW asked me again to paint for them.”



BMW board member expressed his great pleasure that Esther branded the automobiles with exceptional and culturally rich art.

Dr Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of the BMW AG, said:

“Together with experts from BMW Individual Manufaktur and BMW Group Design, Esther has created a unique work of art – a BMW Individual 7 Series that forms an extraordinary relationship between craftsmanship and Ndebele art.”

BMW is not the only firm where the tenacious artist has worked. She has worked in partnerships with several other firms.

She Fought Alongside John Legend Against HIV/AIDS

Esther Mahlangu paired up with popular U.S RnB star John Legend and the luxury vodka brand Belvedere in a campaign to battle against HIV/AIDS prevalence in Africa earlier this year.

The campaign which was called #MakeADierence saw Belvedere adding Mahlangu’s famous colorful, tribal Ndebele designs to the limited edition bottle. John Legend on his end added his signature on the front of the bottle and also provided the campaign with a new single titled  ‘Love Me Now’.

Half of the proceeds from the #MakeADierence campaign were to be put in a global fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.


Written by How Africa

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