30/08/2017 17:32 SAST | Updated 01/09/2017 13:28 SAST

How Many 81-Year-Olds Do We Ever See On Magazine Covers? So, Thank You, Destiny Magazine

Ndebele artist, Esther Mahlangu is one hot and remarkable gogo.


Earlier this month, one of the US's top beauty magazines, Allure, announced that it would stop using the expression "anti-ageing". Editor Michelle Lee explained in a letter: "Whether we know it or not, we're subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle." She is challenging the way we talk about ageing as a society -- hence their latest cover.

So imagine our delight when local magazine, DESTINY, revealed award-winning Ndebele artist, Gogo Esther Mahlangu as its "cover girl" for September.

Africa you are Beautiful. Africa you are Powerful. Africa you are the Cradle of Humankind. Africa you are the Now. Africa you are the Future. Believe it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Few embody this view better than Mama Esther Mahlangu cover star of the September #HeritageIssue of @destinyconnect on sale from tomorrow. We salute her for living her heritage with such dignity, authenticity, love and tenacity. We salute her for eloquently demonstrating that so long as we can breathe we can imagine. Through our imagination we can create a magnificent reality. What an inspiring icon she is. May she continue to rise and stir up in all of us a deeper love for our heritage, art and creativity. Halala Mama Esther! 🎉🙏💕Very well done @sheena0adams, @ladykemomo, @mpu_me and #TeamNdalo! ❤❤ Awesome photography my dear talented brother @victordlamini.👌💛 #TheFutureIsAfrican #HeritageIssue #LatestIssue #HalalaThings #WomanFulfillingHerDestiny #PositivelyImpactingLives #CelebratingAfricanExcellence 🌍💚🌍💙

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Not only is the 81-year-old a heritage icon so worthy of being celebrated, but the cover defies the "cover girl" norm -- and that's why it's a double win for us.

One just has to look at magazine stands in shops to see which type of woman and in which age category normally graces the cover of magazines.

We grow up in a society that champions youth. We are taught, directly or indirectly, to fight ageing as much as possible because it equates to deterioration and weakness. The beauty industry overflows with products believed to "reverse ageing" and "keep wrinkles at bay".

But how glorious are Mam Esther's wrinkles and grey hair? The portrayal is refreshingly realistic in an age of airbrushing. Who said beauty is and has to be one thing?

Read: There Is No Reversing Ageing -- Maybe Slowing It Down, And Even Then It's Tricky

What Destiny magazine has done is truly celebratory. They are challenging the representation of ageing in the media. And we can't downplay the important role mass media has to play -- because through its representation of older people, it communicates the meaning and experiences of ageing in a society. And it's not a lie that older people, especially over the age of 60, are generally under-represented in our media, never mind as cover stars.

I wondered when the cover was announced, how many older women would go out and buy the magazine because "one of their own" was on the cover? I have also often wondered how many of our gogos and mkhulus feel they cannot relate to content in magazines because it's not nearly representative of them.

But look at Mahlangu:

  • She is the only African woman to collaborate, not once, but twice with BMW -- a project that saw her artwork being used in the luxurious 7 series model. In 1991, Esther was the first woman to create artwork for the BMW 5251 Sedan exterior.
  • She has also worked with an alcohol brand, Belvedere Vodka, in partnership with musical sensation, John Legend.
  • She has travelled the world, showing in museums in Europe and North America.
  • The president rightfully awarded her the Order of Ikhamanga in silver, for her contribution to the development of indigenous Ndebele arts.

So when I see this cover -- I see strength, wisdom, cultural pride, and the grace of God in keeping Mahlangu until 81. This cover may be paving a way in shifting cultural perception of ageing as we know it -- and we are here for it.

Somizi Mhlongo put it best when he wrote on Instagram: "This is not just a cover. It's a memoir, a souvenir."

So Destiny magazine, thank you.