GALLERY: Ndebele-flavoured BMW 7 series back in SA


Esther Mahlangu, a South African Ndebele artist, was commissioned by the BMW Group to refine a BMW 7 Series. The vehicle will form part of BMW Group South Africas Heritage Collection with the blessing of Mahlangu.

JOHANNESBURG - Esther Mahlangu’s uniquely South-African flavoured BMW 7 Series is back in South Africa and will be used to preserve the Ndebele cultural heritage of her people.

Mahlangu (aged 82) is a South African Ndebele artist and was the first woman to create artwork on a BMW 525i Sedan turning it into a unique and colourful BMW Art Car. In 2016, Esther was once again commissioned by the BMW Group to refine a BMW 7 Series. 

The vehicle was on display at the Frieze Art Fair which took place in London in 2016. Simultaneously, the original BMW 525i Art Car was part of the exhibition “South Africa: the art of a nation” at the British Museum, functioning as a significant piece and highlighting Mahlangu’s key role in South African art.

BWW Group South Africa is now the owner of Esther’s specially commissioned BMW panels painted in Ndebele art, which have been installed into a new BMW 750Li Individual.  The vehicle will form part of BMW Group South Africa’s Heritage Collection and will be utilised as a display vehicle at various arts and cultural events with the blessing of Mahlangu in order to preserve her cultural heritage for the people of South Africa.

“I am so glad that BMW brought my art back to South Africa, it is a beautiful car to be shared with the people of South Africa for many years to come,” says Mahlangu.

“The patterns I have used on the BMW panels marry tradition to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint, I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I started by painting the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy as the design follows the lines of the panels,” she adds.

Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, is proud that Esther’s work will now be preserved in her home country.  “We are delighted to share Esther’s legacy with the people of South Africa. Esther embraces her traditional heritage passionately and has dedicated her entire life to the development and promotion of Ndebele art”.

Mahlangu was born in Middelburg, Mpumalanga. At the early age of 10, she began to paint under the guidance of her mother and grandmother.

Traditionally, Ndebele women decorate the exterior walls of houses with elaborately painted patterns and graphic elements, symbolising important events such as weddings or other celebrations, thus the walls are used as active communicative media within the community.