nelson makamo me and my confidants 2015 mixed media on paper 161 x 121cm courtesy of circa gallery south africa


(b. 1982, Modimolle, Limpopo, South Africa)

“In my work, I reflect on the movement of culture amongst the youth living in and around the city. My observation is that there is an exchange between people where we adopt each other’s cultures that are relevant to our respective ages. I am greatly fascinated by this, and how we in turn manage our identity with different personas. Therefore, my work aims to show that we are always changing and moving on a path of self-discovery. My work does not represent a certain group of people, it moves across cultures and generations.”


Known for his vibrant portraits set in pulsating African urbanized landscapes, Nelson Makamo is a celebrated, young South African artist based in Johannesburg. Observing with astute sensitivity the chaotic energy of the city, Makamo strives to capture everyday people going about their ordinary lives as the contemporary world accelerates around them.

Joining the Artist Proof Studio (Johannesburg) in 2003, Makamo was the recipient of the Johnson & Johnson International bursary. He exhibited alongside fellow South African artists William Kentridge, Deborah Bell and David Koloane in Ten Years of Printmaking at the David Krut Print Studio in 2006. Makamo has exhibited in the USA, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and is included in various international public and private collections. His solo exhibition, A New Lease on Life, marked his debut at Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg in 2014 

Nelson's work is strongly influenced by the candid innocence of children. He is particularly drawn to children in rural South Africa, as he believes that they embody the peace and harmony we all strive for in life. The search for eternal joy lies in the child within us all; we are just so consumed with worldly things that we forget the simplicity of life through a child's perspective. His medium of expression ranges from charcoal, acrylic and watercolours, to monotypes, silkscreen and oil paintings. He refrains from planning his pieces and opts rather, for the canvas and day’s inspiration to lead him. 

Makamo’s work forms part of a few collections such as those of fashion mogul Georgio Armani, musician Annie Lennox, TELKOM, and Hanzehof Zutphense KunstCollectis. His work was featured in the February 2019 edition of TIME magazine’s ‘Optimists’ issue, guest edited by filmmaker Ava DuVernay.



2021 Human Grace, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2020 Botho, Motho, Batho, Botho Project Space, Johannesburg, South Africa

2019 Nelson Makamo, Loo & Lou Gallery, Paris, France

2018 New Works, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

         The Re-Awakening, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa       

2017 I Am The Soul of Azania, Gallery of African Art GAFRA London, UK

2016 Dipolelo Exhibition, Paris, France

2014 Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2014 Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2013 Salon 91, Cape Town, South Africa

2011 Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010 Movement, Factory Gallery, South Africa

2009 Sharing Realities II, African Studies Centre, Leiden, Netherlands 

         Walk with Me, UTS Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland

         A Place I Call Home, Gallery on the Square, Johannesburg, South Africa

2008 Moving into Light, KZNSA Gallery, Durban, South Africa

         Sharing Realities, Gallery Izarte, Zutphen, Netherlands

2005 Walk with Me, Obert Contemporary Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa



2021 ARCOLisboa, with Everard Read, Lisbon, Portugal

2020    Say it Loud, curated by Destinee Ross-Sutton, Christie’s online

           Staring Straight to the Future, digital exhibition, Everard Read, South Africa

             TINY2020, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2018 1:54 Fair, with GAFRA Gallery, London, UK

2017 No Commission, Dean Collection Kraftwerk, Rummelsburg, Germany

Africa Art Fair, with Zurcher Gallery, New York, USA

We are the souls of Azania, GAFRA Gallery, London, UK

2016 Post it, Constitution Hill, Group exhibition, Johannesburg, South Africa 

2015 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, CIRCA Gallery Booth London, UK

2014 FNB Joburg Art fair Everard Read Gallery Booth, Johannesburg, South Africa 

2013 Art Angels, Ellerman House charity auctions

2012 Figuring Differences curated by Andrew Lamprecht, Salon 91, Cape Town, South Africa

         21-year celebration of the Artist Proof studios at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa

2010 Young Contemporaries, Galerie Nikki Diana Marquardt, Paris, France 

         My City, Arts on Main, Johannesburg, South Africa

2009 City Link, Gallery 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Gallery on the Square, Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa

2007 Cultural and Business Art Exhibition, Somma Lombardo, Italy Making Identity, The Thompson Gallery, Johannesburg, South  Africa

2006 Ten Years of Printmaking, David Krut Print Studios, Johannesburg 

2003 Student and Staff Artists Proof Studio Exhibition, Wits Substation Gallery, South Africa

         Print Marathon, RAU Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

         Print Marathon, Boston, USA


‘The Story Behind the Painting on TIME's Optimists Cover’, TIME Magazine, Feb 2019

Kodd Magazine, Dipolelo Exhibition 

DESTINY Magazine

Mail and Guardian Kwanele Sosibo Rural boy Made Good  

Kritzinger, N. (2014) Nelson Makamo, Everard Read Catalogue.

Lebitse P (2010) my work is my life, pain and joy.

Sowetan The arts section (2010) street art, True love P 90

Hengen, E (2010) Das Wahre Gesicht Südafrikas, Tageblatt,p 18, Zvomuya,P.(2010), Jozi for the alienated, Mail and guardian p6.

Thepa M. (2011) Visual art pushing the boundaries.The new age.Hamilton, N.(2012) Nelson Makamo the well-traveled artist exhibition in Johannesburg.Homeless Talk.

New exhibition coming of age-Artist proof studio turns 21. (2012) House and leisure.

Turbine Art fair (2013) Classic feel magazine

Zvomuya, P. and Larson, S (2013) The August House that fosters art. Mail and Guardian online.