Canvassing the Streets

Nelson Makamo

Artist Nelson Makamo’s works speak to the reason why art exists: to stir emotion and get people talking. And they are…

The studio in which Nelson Makamo creates his thought-provoking, spirited works is his most sacred space. It overlooks the city and its people that inspire him. The young artist is all about strength, movement, expression and freedom in his artwork, which typically involves a variety of mediums including charcoal, acrylic, monotype, silkscreen, watercolour and oil.

Nelson Makamo

Makamo’s passion has always been art, since his days as a boy playing soccer barefoot in his hometown of Modimolle in Limpopo. However, he imagined his path would lead him into the field of engineering when fate called him to Johannesburg – the city of gold – to study the arts.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, in fact very eager, Makamo grabbed his nugget of gold and threw himself into learning as much as he could about printmaking at the Artist Proof Studios.

Nelson Makamo

His first solo exhibition, Walk with Me, held at the Obert Contemporary Gallery in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg sold out. The world was seeing the meteoric rise of a star. In an article written by Vus Ngxande for the June 2016 issue of DESTINY MAN, the writer explains that black children are Makamo’s iconic subject matter. “The consistency with which he sticks to this theme speaks to a broader goal for Makamo: normalising the black image, instead of it being a fetish that panders to the notion of blackness in arts being a redeemed otherness.” Looking at the portraits, delightful in their colour and real in their depiction of life, it’s easy to be drawn into the innocence of children, the play of boys representing the artist’s own childhood experiences and being an observer of a city’s daily life. Perhaps it’s the reason Makamo has managed to have group and solo exhibitions in locations around the world, his most notable at the David Krut Print Studio in 2006 alongside Colbert Mashile, Deborah Bell and William Kentridge.

Nelson Makamo

It seems Makamo is getting his gold nugget indeed, as everyone wants to know the young man from Modimolle whose works are part of collections, adorn the walls of various galleries and today auction for hundreds of thousands of rands. He will be holding a solo exhibition for the first time in Dubai at the Zebra Square Gallery. “The body of work for my next solo show will be inspired by all the knowledge and art techniques I am exploring on my current residency in France, [which runs] until 18 October. I’m looking forward to creating a new series of works, especially for a different and cosmopolitan market such as Dubai.” If his past work is anything to go by, Dubai can forget the sandstorms, the electricity of a typical Highveld storm is coming to town.

Nelson Makamo

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