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Ambassador Farnaud honours Esther Mahlangu with top cultural award

The 2019 celebration of French National Day was a significant occasion for the Embassy of France in Pretoria.

Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Christophe Farnaud, bestowed South African Ndebele artist, Dr. Esther Mahlangu, the award of Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (or Officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters) on behalf of the French Minister of Culture during the celebrations at the French Residence.

The Bastille Day CELEBRATION was an occasion to bid farewell to Ambassador Farnaud as he completes his posting to South Africa this month.

Renowned Ndebele artist Dr. Esther Mahlangu learned traditional Ndebele wall painting and beadwork from her mother and grandmother as a child.

In 1986, while she was working at an Ndebele cultural village in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, French researchers from Paris discovered the artworks she created at her house. She was invited to create murals for an exhibition of international contemporary art in France, and upon her return in 1990; she began to paint murals for public venues in South Africa, soon followed by locations in Europe and the United States.

At 83 years of age, Dr Mahlangu still travels regularly, participating in exhibitions in many of the world’s most respected museums and national galleries and she is consistently invited to collaborate with celebrities and popular global brands. She is one of South Africa’s most globally acclaimed artists and is considered by many to be a national treasure.

The Order of Arts and Letters is a French order was established in 1957 and awarded by the French ministry of Culture in recognition of significant contributions to the enrichment of the arts and literature in France and abroad.

South African citizens who have been awarded the order were : Johnny Clegg (1991), William Kentridge (2013), Gregory Maqoma (2017) and Zanele Muholi (2017).

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the French Revolution with the storming of the ancient royal fortress on this day in 1789.

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