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"Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting": Esther Mahlangu’s Retrospective Exhibition Takes Center Stage+

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Cape Town (South Africa) – Iziko Museums of South Africa is set to unveil a monumental retrospective exhibition, “Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting”: Esther Mahlangu, A Retrospective, curated by Nontobeko Ntombela. The Iziko South African National Gallery will host the exhibition on February 17, 2024. It will span over 50 years of Dr. Esther Mahlangu’s illustrious life, and showcase her remarkable journey and contributions in contemporary art. The retrospective exhibition will be open to public from February 18 until August 11, 2024. It will then embark on a world tour.


Dr. Esther Mahlangu has become a celebrated South African modern artist through her innovative murals that go beyond the traditional. The retrospective, a landmark for South African Art, recognizes Mahlangu’s status as one of few artists to be granted the opportunity in world-renowned museum to present a retrospective.




The exhibitionNontobeko ntombela curated the exhibition, which features more than 100 works of art from international collections. It also includes historic photographs, a film, and Mahlangu’s iconic BMW 525i Art Car. This car is making its historic return to South Africa, after more than 30 year. Mahlangu was the first African and the first woman to be invited to the BMW Art Car Collection.


Mahlangu’s art is characterized by its unique language of form and color. It reflects both her assertiveness and the intersection of African culture and modernity. This retrospective celebrates her journey, which is marked by passion and innovation. The exhibition gives a unique insight into Mahlangu’s career, which spans a wide range of mediums. It also highlights her mastery of them and her transformational impact on form and space.



 Ndebele AbstractAcrylic on canvas, 2023



The retrospective exhibition tells Mahlangu’s story, starting at age 10 when she discovered that she had an extraordinary talent. Mahlangu’s artistic talent evolved as she was taught traditional techniques by her mother and grandmother. She painted murals before moving on to ceramics, sculptures and automobiles.


Dr. Bongani Ndhlovu Acting CEO Iziko Museums of South Africa, celebrates Dr. Esther Mahlangu, a living legend. The retrospective is an expression of creativity, aesthetics, and culture. It reaffirms Africa-centered innovations.


The exhibition, made feasible with the support of the National Arts Council, and BMW, highlights Mahlangu’s pioneering spirit, and his remarkable contribution in the world art. Peter van Binsbergen highlights the importance of the exhibition, and the return of BMW Art Cars to South African soil.


“Then, I Knew I Was Good At Painting”: Esther Mahlangu Retrospective takes you on a journey through Mahlangu’s rich artistic legacy that transcends boundaries and inspires future generations. The Iziko South African National Gallery will host a celebration of Dr. Esther Mahlangu’s life and work from February 18 until August 11, 2024. The Melrose Gallery was Esther Mahlangu’s representative in the world and played a crucial role in implementing this Retrospective Exhibition.


A global tour will be organized for those who are eager to see this historic exhibition. It will begin at the Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa and move to the United States by early 2026. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the vibrant and transformative art of Esther Mahlangu.


You can view more of Dr. Esther Mahlangu’s works on the Melrose Gallery.



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