Arts Editor's Note

The 81-year-old woman pimping BMW’s rides


There aren’t many people like Esther Mahlangu.

Collaborating with BMW would be a dream for any designer, but for the 81 year old South African Ndebele artist it’s all in a days work.
Twenty five years ago, Mahlangu created an iconic BMW Art car, and now she’s teamed up with the German car giants again for a new project.
The BMW Individual 7 Series decorated with Mahlangu’s work was unveiled at this year’s Frieze Fair in London with the car going up for auction at the same event. Her painted artworks for BMW Number 12 car is being exhibited at the British Museum as part of ‘South Africa: the art of a nation’.
Mahlangu’s unique artwork is rooted in Ndebele tradition, where women in the Ndebele tribe decorate the walls of houses in vibrant patterns and colors. These striking designs symbolize significant events and serve as a means of communication within the community.
Of her second collaboration with BMW, Mahlangu said in a statement: “The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition and to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started … My heart was full of joy when BMW asked me to paint for them again.”
BMW isn’t the only prestigious brand to have featured Mahlangu’s striking artwork.
Last month she unveiled a partnership with Belvedere, teaming up with the beverage company for their RED campaign, in the fight against AIDS. She teamed up with Swedish sneaker brand Eytys to create a special pair of sneakers embroidered with her art work. Her paint work has even been featured on the tails of British Airways planes.
Despite her iconic status in South Africa and her popularity across the globe Mahlangu maintains she’s still the same person.
” … My art has taken me all over the world and I have seen many places,” she said in a statement. “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…”