World renowned Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Johannesburg for “her legacy as a cultural entrepreneur and educator, skillfully negotiating local and global worlds”.

She is now known as Dr Mahlangu.

The university’s chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, relayed a personal story of the significance of Mahlangu’s work.

“When I visited the British Museum, I saw the iconic BMW which was painted by Dr Mahlangu. It shows us that no matter where we are in the world, the Ndebele paintings have become an iconic sign of South Africa,” he said.

Mahlangu entered with the university’s academic procession, adorned in traditional Ndebele attire, with a gold necklace and gold rings around her legs. Wearing a pair of white takkies, Mahlangu personalised the pair by attaching a line of beaded Ndebele designs around the sides.

She sat patiently as she watched over each graduate receiving their degrees, and when it came time to receive her own doctorate, the tone of the graduation went from formal to jovial.

Mahlangu took to the podium to thank everyone briefly, when fellow guests close to Mahlangu took to the stage to celebrate in her achievement. Donning animal skin and wooden sticks, three men paid tribute to Mahlangu by dancing on stage. Read more