Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu is a woman of many names. “Dr. Mahlangu, Mam Esther, Esther Mahlangu, Gogo, Mother, Daughter of Africa,” writes curator Ruzy Rusike in a recent exhibition essay. “Applying a singular title to her feels false—she embodies each of those titles and more besides.”
Now, the artist, who celebrated her 85th birthday in November, is adding yet another new descriptor to the long list: sculptor. After a seven-decade career of painting, often applying her distinct geometric patterns to other objects, the artist is expanding her repertoire in a new solo exhibition at South Africa’s Melrose Gallery, proving, as Rusike emphasizes, that, like the nature of art itself, Mahlangu is still evolving.
For the first time, “Dr. Mahlangu has created something specifically as a sculpture, not by painting on something that was created for another purpose,” says Melrose Gallery director Craig Mark.