In this famous artist lesson children will meet Esther Mahlangu and learn about African art. We’ll learn about Ndebele culture and create our own Esther Mahlangu-inspired art.
Esther Mahlangu African art lesson for children
:: learn about Esther Mahlangu
:: learn about the African nation of Ndebele, its culture and its distinctive art style
:: look at and talk about some of Mahlangu’s paintings
:: use marker pens to create your own Ndebele-inspired geometric art
Famous Artist in Focus :: Esther Mahlangu
Esther Mahlangu is a South African artist and was born on 11th November 1935. She is from the Ndebele nation. She is famous for her bold, colourful artworks inspired by the traditional art of the Ndebele people.
Mahlangu began painting when she was ten years old and was taught the Ndebele practice of mural painting by her mother and grandmother.
It is traditional for the women in the Ndebele community to paint the outside of their houses. They use natural pigments mixed with cow dung, and bright acrylic paints outlined with black lines, to make large geometric patterns on the outside walls of their homes.
You can see more Ndebele houses through the links below:
Mahlangu uses elements from the traditional Nedebele houses in her paintings. These traditional designs feature complex symmetry and repeating patterns in geometric compositions using rectangles and triangles.
Mahlangu now travels widely to promote the Ndebele culture. She is also the director of a school which teaches girls the Ndebele style of painting and beadwork.
Esther Mahlangu’s art
Let’s look at some of Esther Mahlangu’s artworks and then we’ll create our own geometric design.
Click through on these links to see examples of her art.
As you look at the artworks, answer these questions:
- What can you see?
- What words would you use to describe the artwork?
ART PROJECT :: NDEBELE-INSPRED GEOMETRIC PICTURES
Let’s take inspiration from Esther Mahlangu, and the Ndebele style of house painting, and create our own geometric pictures.
:: white paper or card
:: black and coloured marker pens
Begin by drawing out a grid to guide your patterns. Use a pencil and ruler to draw faint lines on your paper.
You can draw a border around all four sides of your paper, and diagonal lines across your page.
From this simple framework, add more lines to your page, dividing it up into sections. Try to make your grid symmetrical in its layout.
Once you have a grid to guide your design, draw in your patterns. You can use the shapes you have seen in the photographs of Ndebele houses and Esther Mahlangu’s artworks.
Use repeating patterns, geometric shapes (squares, rectangles, triangles…) and symmetry, as is the Ndebele style.
Draw over the outline of your shapes with a black marker pen. Use a ruler to get clear, straight lines.
Then use marker pens to add colour. You might like to use the same shades that you have seen in the Ndebele houses.
You can use your marker pen to add extra elements to the borders of your design.
And use repeating lines of shapes, and create symmetry in different sections of your design.
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