Artists We Love: Nelson Makamo

WORDS Kelly Berman

The walls of Nelson Makamo’s studio in Joburg are lined with large-scale drawings and mixed-media works depicting the faces of children. Some of them look up as if in reverie, but many of them fix you with their gaze in a moment of stillness that packs an emotional punch.

nelson makamo

The prolific portraitist has a faculty for mark-making and line that he exploits to soulful effect in scenes of ordinary people doing everyday things. He’s been quoted as saying that “every piece is my soul”. “I always say as an artist your soul has been cut into millions of pieces, and you get to share each piece with others.”

Image credit: Andile Buka

Last year was a big one for Nelson: two solos at CIRCA in Joburg and Cape Town; a showcase at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London; the global Rise Art Prize for drawing; a rug collaboration with Laduma Ngxokolo; and, oh, did we mention that Oprah and Ava DuVernay popped in at his studio?

Don’t expect the pace in Nelson’s studio to slow down anytime soon: He has an exciting project coming up soon and is preparing for a show at Loo & Lou Gallery in Paris from 29 May to 27 July 2019.

See more of his work at