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Traditional Ncebele Art Car Displayed in the Museum of Arts and Design

The Global African Project, a campaign which demonstrates the influence of African visual culture on modern art, craft and design, features a BMW 525i Art Car painted in the traditional painting method of the African Ndebele tribe. The car will be on display in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City from mid-November to mid-May.

Esther Mahlangu, a South African artist, painted the car in 1991. She used the customary painting technique of her tribe, which she was passed to her from her mother. These distinctive and familiar patterns are created only by the women of the tribe, and Mahlangu is considered to be the head representative of the style in this generation. The painting of the car was a means of including her tribe’s traditional method of expression in modern technology.

Mahlangu explained that “Ndebele art has, in an entirely natural way, something slightly formal but very majestic about it; through my work I have added the idea of movement. My art has evolved from our tribal tradition of decorating the home.”

Artists have been turning BMW cars into art since 1975. Many of the BMW Art Car automobiles have been displayed in prestigious museums across the globe, including the Louvre, Shanghai Art Museum and Guggenheim Museums. Esther Mahlangu was the first female as well as African artist to join the program.


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