South Africa

'Mahlangu' Rolls-Royce Phantom making a splash across Cape Town

'Mahlangu' Rolls-Royce Phantom making a splash across Cape Town

Cape Town - Ndebele art is making a splash across Cape Town thanks to the work of traditional artist, Dr Esther Mahlangu.

This week Mahlangu attended the unveiling of the “Mahlangu” Rolls-Royce Phantom, a luxury vehicle from the British manufacturer that features 
hand-painted inserts and panels by the artist.

Mahlangu also had her past work showcased at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair at the CTICC this week. The exhibition was titled Abstractions of a Culture: Towards a Retrospective.

Mahlangu’s work is also available to view in a new solo exhibition at the Melrose Gallery Cape Town. 

The exhibition Disrupting Patterns features geometric patterns and paintings, created with a chicken feather.

According to Mahlangu, the job of creating the unique artwork for the car proved to be different to her usual work, even though it distinctly remained her own. 

“There’s no red or yellow, there’s other colours. It became a bit funny for me, but every one comes from the heart. I like all of my work, because it’s my work. There’s not one I don’t like. My heart tells me to paint such and such.”

The idea to work with Mahlangu came about in discussions between managers at Rolls-Royce, according to regional director Cèsar Habib. 

“We wanted to do a Phantom that has a typical African touch. Whoever goes to our showroom in Joburg will see it’s full of artwork on the walls with some artwork by Dr Mahlangu,” he said.

The car took 12 months to build with construction taking place at the company’s manufacturing plant in Goodwood, England.

“Dr Mahlangu even designed the coach line that we wanted to put on the car,” Habib added. “This one is the first one with a painted piece of art.”

“It didn’t take a long time to do that work,” Mahlangu said. 

“We worked on it for about a month. We painted one part and then we brought the second part together.”

Mahlangu’s work first came to global prominence in 1989 when it was exhibited at the Magicians of the World European art exhibition. Since then, she has been globally celebrated for her geometric patterns usually seen on traditional Ndebele house walls.

When she is not touring with exhibitions, Mahlangu teaches children the art of Ndebele painting in her backyard in the KwaMhlanga district in Mpumalanga. 

“As long as I can work, I paint. When I see that I can’t paint anymore, I can’t paint anymore,” she said. “I will paint until I don’t know when. That’s why the children are learning. They must take my work and move forward.” Disrupting Patterns is on until March 31 at the Melrose Gallery Cape Town at the One&Only Hotel. 

* For more information see www.themelrosegallery.co.za.

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Weekend Argus