Esther Mahlangu & Seydou Keïta
From March 15th – April 15th, 2021.
“The importance of our culture is to know where you are coming from. The children, the grandchildren must know which roots they are coming from. If the young children don’t learn from the elders, then everything will vanish.” Esther Mahlangu
Glenda Cinquegrana Art Consulting is glad to present Afrikana!, an Online Viewing Room which will take place on our Artsy page, featuring two African artists, the visionary painter Esther Mahlangu and the portrait photographer Seydou Keïta.
The Afrikana! OVR show unites under its title two acclaimed African artists, one from South Africa and the other from Mali, who use different media to trigger original inquiries involving the recognition of the importance of traditions.
Dr. Esther Mahlangu (Middleburg, South Africa, 1935) is a globally acclaimed visual artist and cultural ambassador of the Nguni ethnic group, known as the Southern African Ndebele people
Dr. Mahlangu’s artistic practice is firmly anchored in the centuries-long traditional Ndebele culture, which, handed down in the family and transmitted only by women, involved painting, clothing, beading. Being firmly rooted in the tribal language considered on the mural medium, her contemporary painting represents a way to convey new meanings to those ancient traditions, as well as a hymn to the importance of women’s transmissive role in both traditional and contemporary societies. She is known for her large-scale geometric pattern paintings executed by technically following the Ndebele traditional tools, by means of a chicken feather as a brush. Growing up in the 1940s, she learned at the hands of her mother and grandmother to create the severe designs to decorate Ndebele homes, using as tools her own fingers, and brushes made from chicken feathers or bobbejaanstert (Xerophyta retinervis, or black-stick lily), colored clay and cow dung.
In 1982 the French Embassy in Pretoria commissioned a Ndebele mural artist to paint a mural at the Pompidou Centre. After her breakout exhibition at Centre Pompidou in 1989 in the ground-breaking show “Magiciens de la Terre” curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, she began an international career as a mural artist which to date include many international as well as local commissions. Her work became internationalized with commissions in Paris, Tokyo, the Netherlands, as well as locally such as at the Johannesburg Civic center. A BMW Art Car soon followed, and subsequent commissions included a mural in collaboration with US minimalist Sol LeWitt at the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2000. Mahlangu’s designs have added Ndebele flair to the tail of a British Airways Boeing, a Fiat 500, stilettos by Brazilian brand Melissa, and a high-end sneaker range by Swedish shoemaker Eytys. Her murals have appeared everywhere from Joburg Theatre to the Virgin Megastore on Times Square, and she painted supermodel Iman white and blue for US lifestyle magazine Town & Country.
Dubbed the African Queen, Esther Mahlangu chose to wear full ritual attire, acting such as a live performer. She would even travel wearing the Ndebele blanket (umbhalo) and beaded aprons. Currently aged 86, Esther is considered as the greatest Ndebele living artist, a fully international artist, visionary, and a disruptor, being the first person to personally reimagine traditional Ndebele design into contemporary mediums. Mahlangu takes steps from the Ndebele painting tradition, by turning it into a freshly made street-art and design language for painting.
Seydou Keïta (Bamako, Mali 1921 – Paris 2001) is globally considered the father of African photography, as much as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.
He basically worked as a commercial photographer in Mali’s capital city Bamako. He opened his own studio in 1948 after training as a self-taught photographer helped by the advice of Mali’s pioneering portrait photographers such as Pierre Garnier and Mountaga Dembélé. He was very successful in making portraits that soon became fashionable in Bamako to pose for Keïta. It was a period of rapid change in Mali, with agricultural populations emigrating en masse to the capital; there was a demand for photos that could be sent home to relatives who remained in outlying regions. They wanted to look up to date, modern, and of course successful, so they posed in their best clothes, sometimes with a Western, Parisian touch – a wristwatch, a radio. (from Third World Eye Seydou Keïta @ MOCA).