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Art of keeping tradition alive

In the past, the Ndebele people of South Africa would announce events like a birth, death or wedding by painting their houses in bold, geometric patterns.

Now, such richly decorated homes have become rarer, said Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu to Artsy, an online platform for art.

The 81-year-old, seen here outside her vividly patterned home in Mpumalanga in South Africa, has been working for years to preserve this unique art form.

Ms Mahlangu has taken this centuries-long tradition to the bigger world through her ceramics, sculptures and canvases.

She still uses a delicate chicken feather as her brush to apply thick black lines before filling up the patterns in bright colours.

Her most recent artworks have been on display at the Melrose Gallery in Johannesburg since last week.

They have been inspired by five charcoal drawings that former South African president Nelson Mandela did in 2001.

Besides honouring the liberation leader, the exhibition is about passing traditions to the next generation, said Ms Mahlangu.

She does this so that no one will lose their culture and traditions, she added. "Because if you do, your grandchildren won't know where they come from."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Art of keeping tradition alive'. Print Edition | Subscribe