Ntsako Mthethwa
2 minute read
7 Sep 2016
12:37 pm

BMW goes tribal with Esther Mahlangu

Ntsako Mthethwa

World-famous Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu has helped to create BMW's most vibrant 7-series model ever.

Back in 1991, South African artist Esther Mahlangu partnered with Munich-based carmaker BMW to paint her bold colours and geometric shapes on to a 525i.

BMW Individual now wants the 81-year-old to showcase her work on one of the company’s flagship models.

Her customized 740Li is now up for silent auction in the United Kingdom, and the proceeds from the sale will go to The Art Room, a charity that uses art therapy to help kids with emotional and behavioural issues.

Where Mahlangu’s 525i brought her vibrant aesthetic to the outside of the sedan, she focused on the interior trim for this 740Li. The design motif is similar though.

bmw-740li-esther-mahlangu (3)

Esther Mahlangu

Mahlangu combines bright colors and simple shapes like squares and triangles. She then mixes and matches these basic elements into complicated patterns.

“To paint is in my heart and it’s in my blood. The way I paint was taught to me by my mother and my grandmother. The images and colours have changed and I have painted on many different surfaces and objects, but I still love to paint. The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint, I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I started by painting the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy, as the design follows the lines of the panels,” Esther said during an interview.

The sedan’s exterior is in BMW Individual Pure Metal Silver, and the interior has Smoke White-colour Merino leather, so her vibrant style really pops for the wood interior trim.



This project is more about Mahlangu’s art than fiddling with the sedan’s performance figures, so the 740Li still boasts the 3.0-litre turbo-six engine capable of producing 240kW and 450Nm of torque.

All power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox – the model can reach 100km/h in 5.6 seconds.

The silent auction for this unique 740Li is already under way, and the vibrant vehicle makes its public debut at the Frieze Art Fair from October 5 through 9 in London’s Regent’s Park.

Last week, luxury vodka brand Belvedere and American R&B star John Legend announced a collaboration with Esther to design a limited edition bottle for their #MakeADifference campaign using her signature Ndebele tribal art.

bmw-740li-esther-mahlangu (1)