Esther Mahlangu’s colourful geometric artwork is exhibited in galleries around the world, but she remains in her South African village unfazed by fame and determined to preserve her ethnic Ndebele culture. The 81-year-old painter and mural artist earned an international reputation with her Ndebele motifs at a time when the art scene in her home country was focused on contemporary styles. Now Johannesburg is hosting a major exhibition for Mahlangu, who has no art training but rose to global acclaim using a skill passed down for generations. With just a chicken feather, Mahlangu first painted mud huts and chipboards before moving on to luxury cars, vodka bottles, skateboards and footwear as her intricate patterns became huge commercial hits. At home in a dusty village in South Africa’s eastern province of Mpumalanga, the sprightly great-grandmother looks nothing like an artist who has exhibited at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the 5th Biennale in Lyon, France and London’s Brit...

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