I finally met Artist Extraordinaire Gogo Esther!

Strauss & Co hosted An Evening with Esther Mahlangu along with fellow Ndebele Artisans to provide an in depth background and understanding to the craft of amaNdebele.

You can just imagine my excitement when the invite landed in my inbox!

It was certainly one of the highlights of the year for me as it had been a big dream of mine for a very long time to meet Gogo Esther – as she is affectionately known here at home.

Her recent Destiny magazine cover renewed this desire in me and I remember calling a friend of mine and saying to him we need to drive to Mpumalanga province and go bask in her presence.

Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu was born in 1935 in Mpumalanga, South Africa, and belongs to the South Ndebele people. She  began painting at 10 years of age, and was taught the skill of mural painting by her mother and grandmother, following a tradition of her native South Ndebele people for females to paint the exterior of houses. It is in this cultural tradition where Mahlangu began her artistic journey.

Mahlangu follows a local tradition through which this particular type of painting technique is handed down in the family, communicated, learned and transmitted only by women (in the past).

These paintings are closely connected with the ancient tradition of decorating the houses on the occasion of the rite of passage for boys. Between 18 and 20 years of age, the youth of the tribe go to “a school of circumcision”, the ritual that confirm their passage to adulthood.

To celebrate this event the women completely repaint the inside and the outside of their houses with a preparation of cow dung and natural pigments. Brightly coloured acrylic paints are also applied in designs outlined by black lines.

Although seemingly simple, the geometric abstraction that is revealed by these paintings is underscored by the constant repetition and symmetry of such simple shapes that make the whole work quite complex.

In the presence of greatness…

What She Wore: Skirt & Cardigan -MAXHOSA by LADUMA; Top – Topshop; Shoes – Christian Louboutin

In captioning her post promoting the cover to mark Heritage Month, editor of Destiny Magazine Khanyi Dhlomo wrote: “Africa you are Beautiful. Africa you are Powerful. Africa you are the Cradle of Humankind. Africa you are the Now. Africa you are the Future. Believe it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Few embody this view better than Mama Esther Mahlangu, cover star of the Destiny magazine’s September (Heritage Month) Issue

My heart is overflowing. What an informative and beautiful evening.



  1. Reply


    February 23, 2018

    You are lucky to have met one of the people you admire. She is indeed an inspiring person, taking on consideration the passion she has for her art and the fact that she has been painting since she was 10. She does look like a very kind and simple person as well.

  2. Reply

    Denny George

    February 24, 2018

    Not being from the art world, or from Africa, this was the first time I had heard of Gogo Esther. She looks and sounds very impressive and the paintings that you’ve captured look quite intricate as well. My kudos to you for making an effort to meet someone so great.

  3. Reply


    February 24, 2018

    Wow lucky girl you are! I don’t know her as an artist but I am i love with the vibrant colors of her art. I would definitely go an see an exposition of her works. Congrats also on your outfit, love the colorful vibes here!

  4. Reply


    February 24, 2018

    Gogo Esther’s art is truly beautiful! So good to see you gushing over a person you finally managed to meet, someone you’ve admired for a while. She seems truly inspirational!

  5. Reply

    Soumya Nambiar

    February 25, 2018

    This is the first time I am hearing about Gogo Esther. But she seems like an incredible woman. It is interesting to read about the various cultures around the world and this is the first time I am hearing about this coming of age ritual of painting houses

  6. Reply


    February 25, 2018

    What an amazing experience to meet such wonderful artists and strong women. I LOVE Gogo Esther’s art form. Her brilliant colors and geo-shapes in the designs always make me feel excited and energetic. And to meet her in person! Lucky you 🙂

  7. Reply

    Kate Storm

    February 26, 2018

    I had never heard of Esther Mahlangu before, but her work looks beautiful! Love all the bright, vibrant colors and clean lines–it’s almost a geometric looking style. So glad you got to meet someone you admire so much–that’s always a special treat in life!

  8. Reply


    February 28, 2018

    Truely lucky to meet and spend time with the person you admire so much. I’m not aware about her work but I can say she’s one phenomenal woman! The artwork does look intricate and very unique, loved reading the story behind the paintings.



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