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Artist Profile

Mahlangu

Speelman Mahlangu

b. 1958, Katlehong, Transvaal

Along with Thomas Kgope, Speelman Mahlangu is one of the major Ndebele artists currently working in South Africa. In his paintings, Mahlangu constructs a dream world that derives its essence from Ndebele myths, traditional practices and designs. Although he grew up in an urban area near Germiston, Mahlangu spent much time with the Ndebele people, both in his childhood and when he had already established himself as an artist. His grandfather introduced him to the legends and symbolism of animals and ancestor sacrifice, while the elder women taught him about designs and murals.

Mahlangu combines these Ndebele patterns with figures – often half-human and half-animal – and places them in surreal landscapes. His shapes are flat and clearly delineated, his compositions often largely geometric, but the mood of the works always unsettling. In the artist’s own words, Mahlangu often describes things "that one cannot see but can only feel." The themes are drawn from an exploration of "spiritual mythical ideas of the world to come." Mahlangu also concerns himself with the role of music in African traditional rituals, and drums and calabashes often emerge from his compositions.

Speelman Mahlangu studied at the Katlehong Art Centre, where he concentrated on sculpture (under the tutelage of Stanley Nkosi), and on painting (under Rose Shakanovsky). As an established artist, he has been teaching at several centres, including a youth camp in KwaNdebele and at the Ezebeni Cripple Care Centre in Thokoza. He has continued his involvement with the Katlehong Art Centre, producing sculpture, pots and relief murals in clay, and often exhibiting with its members. In keeping with the strong Ndebele mural tradition, Mahlangu contributed to the Kwa Ndebele Mural Design Project, and was also commissioned to produce a mural for the Johannesburg International Airport in 1995.

Mahlangu has participated in numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa from 1977 onwards, with several solo shows in Johannesburg and Gaberone, Botswana. His work has been shown internationally in Germany, Canada, the United States and Israel. He was recently part of an important exhibition at the Atlanta International Museum of Art, entitled Art of the Ndebele: Evolution of a Cultural Identity [1998-99].

1958: Born in Germiston, Gauteng

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1977: D.H. Williams Hall [Johannesburg]
1983: Solo exhibition, FUBA Gallery [Johannesburg]
1986: Design Animations [Johannesburg]
1991: Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]
1994: Solo exhibition, Botswana National Museum [Gaberone]
It’s OK to Dream, Natalie Night Gallery [Johannesburg]

GROUP EXHIBITIONS:

1980: New Signatures, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]

1982: Multiracial Art, Vaal Triangle

1984: Market Graphics [Johannesburg]

1985: Tributaries Exhibition [South Africa and West Germany]
KwaZulu University, awarded first prize for sculpture [Natal]

1987: Volkskas Atelier, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]
Two-man exhibition at Amadlozi Art Centre

1988: Group exhibition, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]

1990: Afrika Now, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]

1991: Contemporary African Art, Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]
Three-man exhibition, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]
Town Country, Everard Read Gallery, Oglethorpe Gallery [USA]
West Germany, Israel

1996: Tomorrow is Now KGI [Vancouver, Canada], with Thomas Kgope

1997: Ndebele Images: Then and Now, National Arts Club [New York]
Images of Freedom, Knight Galleries International [Toronto, Canada]

1998-99: Art of the Ndebele: Evolution of a Cultural Identity, Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design [Atlanta, USA]

2000: Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town
2000: Visual Arts Gallery, Melville

AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS:

1980: New Signatures Award, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]

1985: First prize for sculpture at an exhibition at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal

1995: Commission for Johannesburg International Airport featured on Syfrets calendar with Thomas Kgope. His work has been included in the Johannesburg International Airport, ( Mural 3m x 1.5m) and the Frankfurt Museum of Ethnology, as well as major National and Corporate collections in South Africa.

b. 1958, Katlehong, Transvaal

Along with Thomas Kgope, Speelman Mahlangu is one of the major Ndebele artists currently working in South Africa. In his paintings, Mahlangu constructs a dream world that derives its essence from Ndebele myths, traditional practices and designs. Although he grew up in an urban area near Germiston, Mahlangu spent much time with the Ndebele people, both in his childhood and when he had already established himself as an artist. His grandfather introduced him to the legends and symbolism of animals and ancestor sacrifice, while the elder women taught him about designs and murals.

Mahlangu combines these Ndebele patterns with figures – often half-human and half-animal – and places them in surreal landscapes. His shapes are flat and clearly delineated, his compositions often largely geometric, but the mood of the works always unsettling. In the artist’s own words, Mahlangu often describes things "that one cannot see but can only feel." The themes are drawn from an exploration of "spiritual mythical ideas of the world to come." Mahlangu also concerns himself with the role of music in African traditional rituals, and drums and calabashes often emerge from his compositions.

Speelman Mahlangu studied at the Katlehong Art Centre, where he concentrated on sculpture (under the tutelage of Stanley Nkosi), and on painting (under Rose Shakanovsky). As an established artist, he has been teaching at several centres, including a youth camp in KwaNdebele and at the Ezebeni Cripple Care Centre in Thokoza. He has continued his involvement with the Katlehong Art Centre, producing sculpture, pots and relief murals in clay, and often exhibiting with its members. In keeping with the strong Ndebele mural tradition, Mahlangu contributed to the Kwa Ndebele Mural Design Project, and was also commissioned to produce a mural for the Johannesburg International Airport in 1995.

Mahlangu has participated in numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa from 1977 onwards, with several solo shows in Johannesburg and Gaberone, Botswana. His work has been shown internationally in Germany, Canada, the United States and Israel. He was recently part of an important exhibition at the Atlanta International Museum of Art, entitled Art of the Ndebele: Evolution of a Cultural Identity [1998-99].

1958: Born in Germiston, Gauteng

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

1977: D.H. Williams Hall [Johannesburg]
1983: Solo exhibition, FUBA Gallery [Johannesburg]
1986: Design Animations [Johannesburg]
1991: Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]
1994: Solo exhibition, Botswana National Museum [Gaberone]
It’s OK to Dream, Natalie Night Gallery [Johannesburg]

GROUP EXHIBITIONS:

1980: New Signatures, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]

1982: Multiracial Art, Vaal Triangle

1984: Market Graphics [Johannesburg]

1985: Tributaries Exhibition [South Africa and West Germany]
KwaZulu University, awarded first prize for sculpture [Natal]

1987: Volkskas Atelier, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]
Two-man exhibition at Amadlozi Art Centre

1988: Group exhibition, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]

1990: Afrika Now, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]

1991: Contemporary African Art, Natalie Knight Gallery [Johannesburg]
Three-man exhibition, Sanderling Gallery [Johannesburg]
Town Country, Everard Read Gallery, Oglethorpe Gallery [USA]
West Germany, Israel

1996: Tomorrow is Now KGI [Vancouver, Canada], with Thomas Kgope

1997: Ndebele Images: Then and Now, National Arts Club [New York]
Images of Freedom, Knight Galleries International [Toronto, Canada]

1998-99: Art of the Ndebele: Evolution of a Cultural Identity, Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design [Atlanta, USA]

2000: Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town
2000: Visual Arts Gallery, Melville

AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS:

1980: New Signatures Award, South African Association of Arts [Pretoria]

1985: First prize for sculpture at an exhibition at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal

1995: Commission for Johannesburg International Airport featured on Syfrets calendar with Thomas Kgope. His work has been included in the Johannesburg International Airport, ( Mural 3m x 1.5m) and the Frankfurt Museum of Ethnology, as well as major National and Corporate collections in South Africa.