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Painting on cars with chicken feathers

Celebrated artist Dr Esther Mahlangu was taught the art of Ndebele design and house panting from her mother and grandmother. She recently painted unique artwork for a Rolls-Royce Phantom Dash Gallery and shares how she's preserving her culture and tradition through art.

The elders of my community would paint the houses. When they left for a break, I would continue to paint on the house. When they came back they would say: what have you done child? Never do that again! After that I started drawing on the back of the house, and slowly my drawings got better until they finally asked me to come back to the front of the house. Then I knew I was good at painting. I want to preserve my cultural heritage, and that’s why I founded an art school in Mpumalanga.

Brands give me the freedom to paint what I want so it’s always a good partnership. The owner of the Rolls-Royce Phantom asked me to use only blues, which was fine, and then I painted the design I wanted. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of ‘The Mahlangu Phantom’ will be donated to the school and will be used to support a retrospective exhibition that will tell my life story.

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I don’t want the art to vanish. We mostly use acrylic paint now, and sometimes still cow dung and clay soil. And I still use chicken feathers, not paint brushes – the Rolls-Royce dash gallery was painted with chicken feathers.

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