Nelson Makamo: Souls of Azania

Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) rarely fail to amaze me by bringing in new and exciting works from phenomenal artists. When I received the email notification about the private view reception for Nelson Makamo’s work, I was delighted. Having never heard of him, I looked forward to being introduced to a new contemporary talent from Africa. The image attached to the email was of  a gorgeous painting of a young black boy, whose eyes stare you down; making the title of his exhibition, Souls of Azania, appropriate.

nelson-makamo-i-am-the-soul-of-azania-2017I am the Soul of Azania by Nelson Makamo

I, regrettably, was unable to attend the reception, which i really am kicking myself for as i have a number of questions i would’ve loved to ask Nelson. But, I just might bump into him when i go back to GAFRA (yes, i do intend on viewing this exhibition more than once), you never know. If it can happen with Phoebe Boswell at Tiwani Contemporary, then why not Nelson?

Nelson Makamo, born in the eastern side of South Africa, has had solo and group exhibitions in South Africa, Italy, America, France, Scotland and the Netherlands. He has now blessed us with his work, for the first time here in London, with GAFRA. The vibrancy in his art and how he captures the innocence of children is reason enough to know why his work carries him around internationally. The London contemporary African art scene should make way for his stunning art (and his handsome face. Google him.)

img_2269.jpg Spirit by Nelson Makamo

In a mini documentary by HONA Africa, Nelson talks about the reason behind drawing on glasses on the painting of the children to make them appear “smarter” – click here to watch. Whether i agree with his decision to make African children look smarter in his drawings, based off of racist connotations, is a political discussion that I would really love to have with him. His pride in his “Africanness” moves me as it’s so boldly showcased in his art and how he talks about his art. His love for the children of South Africa is also evidenced; he focuses on their expressions, keeping the youth in their face but adding a hint of maturity. I recall a quote of his stuck on the wall of GAFRA, says “being an African child is what inspires me.”

IMG_2275Untitled by Nelson Makamo

This piece, as well as the Spirit one above, were my absolute favourite work from the exhibition. With this Untitled work, I immediately thought of the character Chiron from the movie Moonlight, specifically the stunning shot at the end of young Chiron standing at the edge of the water on the beach, with a blue-black light illuminating this gorgeous little boy. So if Nelson is still looking for a name for this piece, I recommend Chiron or Moonlight.

Below are a few other captivating pieces:

IMG_2271Triangle of Life by Nelson Makamo

IMG_2272Talent by Nelson Makamo

IMG_2276Sharing by Nelson Makamo

This exhibition is free and will be running till the 16th of September at Gallery of African Art located at 45 Abermarle St, Mayfair, London W1S 4L. Nelson Makamo will also be among the number of incredibly talented artists at this years 1:54 Contemporary Art Fair happening from the 5th to the 8th of October 2017. Tickets are not yet out but do look out for more information on a release in mid-August on their site – and i’ll also be sure to keep you all posted nearer to the time. Find Nelson Makamo on instagram – @NelsonMakamo

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