Dbongz Mahlati and Disney+'s Mandalorian Mural: A collaboration rooted in authenticity
By Lindelwa Masuku
Johannesburg-based mural artist Dbongz Mahlati has recently collaborated with Disney Plus to create a proudly South African mural celebrating the launch of Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 3.
As a contemporary artist, Dbongz Mahlati brings a unique perspective to the traditional street art scene, using his talents to tell stories of the township and the challenges and aspirations of black South Africans.
Mahlati's interest in street art began in 2008 when he arrived in the city to attend tertiary school. He was drawn to the artistic form for the creative freedom it provided him, the vibrant colours, the large canvases in the form of walls, the confidence it instilled in him, and the potential to communicate conceptual messages to a wide audience.
The artist discussed his creative process and ideas behind the mural, which is located right next to the Gautrain station in Rosebank, Johannesburg. He was thrilled to work with Disney+ on a franchise as iconic as Star Wars and to represent South Africa through his artwork.
The mural's inspiration came from the country's rich culture, with a focus on beads that unite different tribes. Dbongz Mahlati's challenge was to merge his design aesthetic and style with that of Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 3. He succeeded in capturing the valour and energy of the season while keeping true to the original helmet design, adding some colour and charisma to it.
Describing his mural in three words, Dbongz Mahlati said it represented "POWER, STRENGTH and UNITY." The mural can be found at Kingsmead College on Oxford Road, where visitors can experience the incredible merger of Art and Augmented Reality by using their phones.
As a muralist, Dbongz Mahlati's journey began on the streets, where he took a more artistic approach when working with big brands, focusing on hyperrealism. He uses spray paint and acrylic to create large-scale photorealistic murals.
Mahlati's story is a testament to the changing face of the street art scene in Johannesburg, where opportunities are opening up for street artists. Organisations like Baz Art are helping artists monetize their craft, making it easier for them to make a living.
Disney Plus's collaboration with Dbongz Mahlati also highlights the representation of street artists on big platforms like Disney+. By showcasing the works of local artists like Dbongz Mahlati, Disney+ acknowledges the value and importance of street art as a legitimate form of contemporary art.
The representation of local artists like Dbongz Mahlati can inspire and empower other up-and-coming artists to pursue their passion and showcase their talents to the world.
Mahlati hopes that the public will take away a message of perseverance from his Star Wars: The Mandalorian Season 3 mural: "That there is always a way to make anything happen, especially what seems hard!"
Dbongz Mahlati's collaboration with Disney Plus is a testament to the changing face of street art and how it is being recognised as a legitimate form of contemporary art.
By bringing South African culture to the world stage, Dbongz Mahlati's work not only celebrates the much-awaited and critically acclaimed third season of Star Wars: The Mandalorian but also paves the way for other street artists to be recognized and celebrated on big platforms like Disney+.