Creative business

Multidisciplinary artist Nene Mahlangu is the 2023 Design Indaba Emerging Creative programme curator.

Submissions for the 2023 installation of the much-lauded Design Indaba Emerging Creative programme have opened, and, as we excitedly await the next generation of design superstars, we’re introducing the curator who will hand-pick the 20 talented new inductees. 

Neo ‘Nene’ Mahlangu, a former Design Indaba Emerging Creative herself, is a multidisciplinary visual artist and entrepreneur based in Johannesburg. In 2019, she made history as the youngest woman to ever design two coins for the South African Mint and the first to design a coin with a black girl’s face on it. 

Mahlangu made her international debut with an exhibition at the Venice International Art Fair in 2020 and has since exhibited in Birmingham, Ibiza, Finland and Lagos. Most recently, she was selected as the lead visual artist for Grammy-award-winning DJ and producer Black Coffee’s 2022 Hï Ibiza residency for which she created 23 artworks. The highly accomplished Ga-Rankuwa-born artist has been nominated for several awards, amongst them the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) ImpACT Awards for Young Professionals in 2020. Mahlangu was also listed as one of Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans in the same year. 

The 2018 Design Indaba Emerging Creative is inspired by sensuality, fashion and religion in her pieces, often commenting on womanhood as defined by the cultural, racial and political context of South African daily reality. Mahlangu’s ethereal representations employ diverse mediums – from digital illustration to acrylic and charcoal paintings – to both criticise and examine patriarchal society. 

Mahlangu established a company called GreenMango to help upcoming artists polish up their entrepreneurial skills. It was through GreenMango that she launched a course called 'Intro To Pricing Your Art' to guide emerging visual artists to price their artworks confidently and in ways that can fund their practices sustainably. Mahlangu is passionate about uplifting the next generation of artists in South Africa – particularly women artists – and is the perfect choice to be curating a programme that does just that. 

“To be able to contribute to a platform that both nurtures and boosts the incredible artistic potential of our country is such an honour,” says Mahlangu of her curatorship, “I am looking forward to seeing all of 2023’s entries!” 

Twenty gifted youngsters from hundreds of applicants will be chosen by Mahlangu to take part in the 18th year of South Africa’s most prestigious creative developmental programme, which is proudly sponsored by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture as part of its commitment to the improvement, re-orientation and expansion of the arts and culture sector in South Africa. 

Are you – or someone you know – one of these 20 creative sensations? Apply to become part of Design Indaba’s Emerging Creative Class of 2023 now! Apply directly at

Read more:

The search for South Africa’s next generation of creative sensations is back!

How human connection inspires Neo Mahlangu’s work.

Neo Mahlangu.

Credits: Nene Mahlangu