SA's newest art superstar Nelson Makamo is an optimist

Nelson Makamo is visited by Ava DuVernay. Pictures: instagram
Nelson Makamo is visited by Ava DuVernay. Pictures: instagram

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that South African art’s newest superstar, the 36-year-old Limpopo-born Nelson Makamo, made it to the cover of Time magazine this week.

That’s because one of Makamo’s biggest fans is Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed US film director, producer and distributor.

And DuVernay was the guest editor of the latest edition of the mag, called “the optimism edition”.

She’s posted on her Instagram before about buying paintings from Makamo.

Auction houses show his larger work climbing rapidly above the R250 000 mark but the verdict is out on the value of the gorgeous work featuring a child in red spectacles now that it’s been on the cover of Time.

And she’s not the only celeb in love with his bright paintings and famous charcoal portraits, which exude the love and beauty of the innocent African child, marking an upbeat and positive trend in the often dark and conceptual world of contemporary art.

Makamo was in the news two years ago when he, with two other new-school cultural darlings – DJ Black Coffee and MaXhosa fashion designer Laduma Ngxokolo – announced they are creating a school called FAM Academy.


The FAM stands for fashion, art and music and the school is projected to open in 2020.

A trawl through Makamo’s Instagram page shows him spreading the love with Oprah Winfrey and Swizz Beatz, among many others, who he has visited in the US or who have visited his Johannesburg studio.

Makamo, whose most frequent model is his 11-year-old cousin Mapule Maoto in exchange for paying for her schooling, told the magazine: “Later on in life we sometimes forget there’s beauty in being a human being. But children are just discovering that.”

He’s come a long, long way from Modimolle, Limpopo, but he’s never forgotten his roots.

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