The 12th Art Car was the first to have been signed by a woman. This is not the only fact that makes this BMW 525i so special. The South African artist Esther Mahlangu coated the bodywork of the car with the bright colors and clearly distinguishable ornamental shapes typical of her ethnic tribal Ndebele art. The ancient African art could not provide a more striking contrast to such a top-end, high speed, high-tech model capable of reaching 225 km/h. Esther was delighted that the Art Car managed to help introduce her tribal art to such a broad audience.
Born in the Middleburg district in the Transvaal province of South Africa in 1936, Esther Mahlangu learned traditional Ndebele painting from her mother. One of the many tribal art forms found in South Africa, the striking and instantly recognizable Ndebele mural painting of huts, undertaken only by the women of the tribe, is well known in the country of her birth. Each pattern has a significance and meaning, much of which has been lost in the mists of time.
Esther Mahlangu is recognized as a leading exponent of this art form in South Africa and she is now permanently attached to the Botshabelo Outdoor Museum near her birthplace. Recently she has made the transition from exclusively mural painting to working on canvas. She has exhibited her work throughout South Africa and recently gained international recognition when she was asked to exhibit in Paris. Esther bears with pride a responsibility for perpetuating a tribal art form of striking intensity and her own daughter is being trained to carry on the tradition.