If you’re ever holding a R2 commemorative coin, study at it carefully. It might be the work of Neo Mahlangu, 28, the youngest black woman to have ever designed coins for the South African Mint.
This self-employed fine artist designed two coins in 2019 depicting children’s rights and the right to fducation to mark 25 years of South Africa’s democracy.
That was her proudest moment so far; on the other side of the coin, she admits that one of her biggest career learnings stems from not taking financial literacy seriously when she started out. “I had to stomach a few losses that have woken me up to the importance of taking the financial details of my business extremely seriously,” she says. Now, a serious business streak supports the artistic talent behind her one-woman business, Neo Mahlangu Studio.
Mahlangu also aims to become a role model for artistic black girls, because she never had a role model to inspire her. “The only form of the arts I was exposed to was the likes of Lebo Mathosa and Brenda Fassie being unapologetic about their talents on TV. I always wondered where the painters and designers were,” she says. “Not having a physical example of the woman I wanted to be made it hard to convince myself and my parents that I wanted to be an artist.”
Thankfully, she followed her dream, and was named as a Design Indaba Emerging Creative in 2018.
She’s now working towards a society in which women — including herself — are encouraged to pursue whatever they want to achieve. “I need to believe in the power of my potential and feed my dreams with action and faith and audacity!” she says.
“I want to live in a future where women are comfortable expressing their talents at the top of their lungs. I want to see more women-led exhibitions.”