By Daniel Chokoe
The name Dr Esther Mahlangu has become synonymous with inspiration and literally a perfect embodiment of embracing your culture and achieving greatly while at it. Dr Esther Mahlangu is known all over the world as the South African artist from the Ndebele nation who uses her contemporary painting style to represent the amaNdebele culture.
Her work has been recognised for the past two decades all over the world, she recently started trending again in South Africa when she re-joined forces with BMW to design the BMW 7 series; before we knew it other brands wanted to be associated with her, Albany bread, Fiat, Tastic rice and Freshpak rooibos just to name a few.
I adore Gogo Mahlangu so much and I am truly inspired by her work especially since it celebrates African culture, I hope that people do not see this as an attack on Dr Mahlangu but rather a thought provoking challenge to the Marketing and Advertising industry. I would like to use her success story and pose a question to the South African marketing and advertising industry. What happened to creativity?
South Africa is a country that has 11 official languages, and as many tribes; amongst them Nguni, Sotho, Venda, Shangaan-Tsonga.
Could other brands not use resources at their disposal to research about “Gogo Mahlangus” from other tribes, should we really consider the work innovative if they just went with the trend and used Dr Mahlangu to market their products?
There is a common phrase we use, “there is nothing new under the sun”; which is a good excuse to reproduce other people’s ideas. Some might say we live in a saturated place where originality is as dry as Cape Town dams , however I believe that South Africa is a diverse country and if we just applied our minds to what this rainbow nation represents we could reach new frontiers and create many more Dr. Mahlangu’s.
“Originality comes from making connections—seeing patterns where others see chaos, and taking old ideas and elevating them to new perspectives.” – unknown author
No one can deny how the world has embraced the Ndebele culture which Dr. Mahlangu portrays to absolute perfection, advertisers should rather use this success and figure out if all South African cultures were exposed to the world. Would the world still exclusively love the Ndebele culture as opposed to other South African tribes? It’s highly unlikely, why not tap into this space and embrace other tribes?
That is my main question and challenge to local advertisers, I challenge them to show the true demographics of South Africa through advertisements and reap the rewards of people not only embracing our nation but also creating more successful entrepreneurs like Dr. Esther Mahlangu.