Nelson Makamo is someone whose work speaks for itself. Born in Limpopo and based in Joburg, the globally celebrated visual artist is unquestionably an artist’s artist. Artists such as Giorgio Armani, Annie Lennox and renowned film director and screenwriter Ava Duvernay amongst others, love, own and respect his work. Makamo’s name was mentioned in the same breath as (America’s top-selling African-Amercian artist) Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold and Kara Walker in Duvernay’s American television drama series, Queen Sugar that she produces with Oprah Winfrey. All the success, fame, recognition and the man remains as grounded as can be. For Makamo it’s all about having a purpose, sharing his unique gift with the world, and uplifting and empowering other creatives – especially the African child.
In a video interview with British-Ghanaian artist Adelaide Damoah, the artist expresses how much he respects his art and the people he creates it for. ‘I approach my artistic concepts with respect. My greatest fear is creating work that is offensive or makes anyone feel less of a human being. That would probably make me retire from my work.’
Makamo’s paintings depict the unique features and emotions of young African children. He is inspired by the African child because he is one and wants to celebrate that fact and the exciting times we’re currently living in. The painter tries to find rare moments in children in an effort to rewrite the poor, starving African child narrative to one of a happy African child that’s capable of becoming a leader and someone in the world. He has a unique gift of capturing moments that we all experience and can relate to.
An exciting project that he’s currently involved in is a collaboration with Maxhosa designer Laduma Ngoxokolo and DJ Black Coffee to create a new art neighbourhood in Johannesburg. The plan is to build an art, music and fashion school, The Fam Academy, in a neglected part of Joburg with the aim of reviving the area. The project is underway, with the trio teaming up with Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, and partnering with SAOTA Architects to design the institution. The overall vision is to create opportunities and a creative space with boutique stores, restaurants, a learning and cultural center.
Some our favourite Nelson Makamo pieces:
Feature Image: Instagram @NelsonMakamo