22 June - 16 September 2017

The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) is pleased to present an exhibition of works by the internationally acclaimed South African artist Nelson MakamoHis first solo exhibition in London Souls of Azania, highlights Makamo's admiration for his homeland and its future dreamers - the children.


When people think of South Africa they may conjure up dreamy thoughts of its breath-taking natural beauty, or perhaps the iconic image of its most famous son, Nelson Mandela. It was Mandela who inspired young South Africans in a swirl of post-apartheid excitement and inspiration, to go forth and live their dreams in a fast changing and dynamic country, while passionately talking up the talents of his compatriots. Yet, little is known about the identity or the prodigious talents of young artists who have emerged to stake their place in the new South Africa he did so much to shape.


Well step forward one of those rising stars, Nelson Makamo, someone the art world will be hearing a lot more about. With his current exhibition, Makamo introduces himself and his acclaimed work to the British art scene. Like the revered late South African president, his namesake grew up and was nurtured in rural South Africa, an upbringing that infused him with a deep and profound sense of patriotism, providing a rich indigenous platform for his life and work.


His work is seen as the product of an often itinerant life, and the numerous journeys between his rural life and the big, bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, a complex and challenging city that has maintained a raw edge since the days when it was built around its once flourishing gold mines. Makamo draws inspiration and flourish from the rural life he treasures and the contrasts it offers in a fast changing South Africa. "A lot of the inspiration for my work comes from family," he told a South African newspaper interviewer. "When there are family gatherings, I always make a point to sketch or photograph."  He has said that movement and the transition back and forth from rural to urban settings together have been key influences in his emerging work, since those journeys, he says, "unfold in seconds and seconds and seconds, like prints."  Within this context, he has explored the horrors migrant labourers face and the challenges the mythologized notions about what success in the city really means and the price many must pay.


Nelson Makamo was born in Limpopo Province on the eastern side of South Africa. Like countless young South Africans, he moved to Johannesburg in 2003 to pursue his studies and his dreams of becoming an artist. A lot of his work is deeply expressionistic and he has spoken about the "instant magic" from using his hands. Even though his background was in printmaking, it's his mixed-media drawings which are his artistic signature, such as using charcoal dust with an eraser rather than brushstrokes. As well as charcoal, he uses oil paints, watercolour, silkscreen, monotype printing techniques, pen and ink.


His art is known for its vibrancy with a special emphasis on the portrayal of the innocence of children in outlying rural areas, far removed from South Africa's big city bustle. Facial expressions, emotions, and body language are familiar features of his work.


Makamo boasts an impressive resume, having exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in South Africa, France, Italy, America, Netherlands, and Scotland. Through Souls of Azania the London art scene will now have the opportunity to experience his exciting works.