Nelson Makomo


Nelson Makamo (1982 - ) was born in a small town in the Limpopo province. In January 2003, Makamo moved to Johannesburg to join the Artist Proof Studio where he studied for 3 years and worked for another 2 years as sales representative and curator of the gallery.
He was awarded a bursary from Johnson and Johnson and the Pinpoint one Human Resources Scholarship in 2005.
Makamo has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in South Africa, France, Italy, America, Netherlands, Amsterdam and Scotland.
His first solo exhibition, Walk with Me, was held at the Obert Contemporary Gallery in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. His most notable group exhibition was alongside established South African artists in Ten Years of Printmaking: David Krut Print Studio in 2006. Invited artists included David Koloane, Colbert Mashile, Deborah Bell and William Kentridge. Makamo’s work currently forms part of a few collections such as those of fashion mogul Georgio Armani and much loved musician Annie Lenox. He is currently working as a fulltime artist in Johannesburg with a studio at August House.

Artist’s Statement:


The city of Johanesburg is such a dynamic space with so much to see, and so much to reflect on and is often a source of reference for my work. My work is inspired by my existence, by the fact that I can wake up every day and see the movement around me. I work in a number of media-­ watercolour, pen and ink, monotype, silkscreen, charcoal drawing, painting (oil). I enjoy manipulating my medium and making it seem something other than what it is. Sometimes people mistake my oil paintings for monotypes and my silkscreen could easily pass for ink on paper drawings. The common colours that you will find in my work are red and blue. They are very symbolic. I do use red not to symbolize danger, but rather as an emotive colour that provokes feeling. I am constantly reminded of the freedom I had. It draws a barrier line between being a child and being an adult.  Even though you may play as a child, you reach a stage where you have responsibilities.


I do a lot of portraits because there is something that draws to me to facial expressions. They reflect so much about a person - their mood, their character, so I believe a portrait is one of the ways that you can know someone.  My subject matter often consists of young boys, as well as young male adults. This is because they reflect a stage in life, which I have passed through. So, I feel that I can reflect better on their issues as I have experienced them. However, I try not to make my work too personal and make sure that someone else could have experienced whatever I share. As a result, anybody can relate to my work. I am very proud of that. It opens the work to interpretation.

One of the running motifs in my work is that of people walking away. Perhaps this is linked to the responsibilities I spoke of earlier. We are always walking away from everything that we face.


In my work, I reflect on the movement of culture amongst the youth living in and around the city. What I mean by this is that we adopt different cultures that pertain to our different ages, and we are constantly performing those cultures. I also explore the ability to pass through different stages of life. My work does not represent a certain group of people; rather it tries to bridge many different peoples.