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Early Life




Esther Mahlangu Homestead

Dr. Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu was born on 11 November 1935 on her families farm located just outside of Middelburg in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. Esther is a proud member of the South Ndebele people.


At the age of 10 years old, Esther Mahlangu began learning the skill of mural painting with the guidance of her mother and grandmother. It is a well known tradition of the South Ndebele people for females to paint the exterior of houses, and practicing this cultural tradition was ultimately where Esther Mahlangu first began her artistic journey.

Esther - at an exhibition.jpg


Esther Mahlangu Homestead

As the oldest of 9 siblings Esther was brought up in a large family consisting of six boys and three girls.

Esther and her late husband had three sons of their own, with Esther having outlived all 3 of her sons

As the matriarch, Esther is extremely close to her family and is loved and adored by all the members of her community.

Esther Mahlangu at home with a student, 1992 - Margaret Courtney Brown


Esther with student

Dr Esther Mahlangu has no formal education, she however learnt to paint at an early age from her mother and grandmother as is tradition amongst the Ndebele nation.


Ndebele design is based on an understanding of complex mathematical concepts that allow for the creation of abstract designs made from geometrical shapes and colours with the balance grounded in sacred geometry.

Education has always been extremely important to Esther Mahlangu, and she has taught many people to paint from her informal school that she founded and self-funded at her homestead in Mpumalanga.

Dr Mahlangu is one of few people who have been honoured with 3 honorary doctorates from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), the Tshwane University (TUT), and the Durban University of Technology (DUT).

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