Nelson Makamo - A South African Artist Becomes a Global Phenomenon | The Daily Show

Nelson Makamo – A South African Artist Becomes a Global Phenomenon | The Daily Show

Welcome to the show, my friend. Thank you
for having me, Trevor. Good for you to be here. It's exciting to have you
on this side of the world. Um, I remember
when I first saw your work. It-it enthralled me,
it captured me, and I loved it
as a fellow South African. But then when I saw it blow up
on the world stage, it did something
I-I never thought I could feel, because art has always felt like it's been,
like, a European thing. -Yup. -You know?
It's like, "Oh, that's art." -Yup. -And then it's like,
"The Africans make nice things." It'd be like, "Oh, this is cute.
Where did you pick this up?" You know? But-but you're starting
to shake that. You're starting
to change all of that. You just came back
from your own showing in Paris, you know, where people… -Like, your artworks
all sold… all sold out. -Yeah. Who is Nelson Makamo,
and-and why do you think you're experiencing this success
in the art world? Um, wow. I mean, I don't even know
where to start. -Um, I mean, art has always
been part of me. -Right. Uh, growing up… I mean, I grew up… Um, I was born
in a small town in South Africa. Um… it was quite interesting,
because growing up, -toys were never actually an
option as a black child. -Right. So you had to create
your own toys. So my foundation
of art started from there. I started actually making toys
from clay. Um, and then, from there, and starting from primary… Um, it was quite interesting, because, I mean, South Africa,
as you know, in the '80s, -post-apartheid…
-Yeah. …um, were limited
in terms of choices. -Art was never an option.
-Yes. So, as a child, um,
you were told to either become a doctor. -You know, you become
a teacher, a lawyer. -Yes. That's what your parents hoped
you would do. That's what my parents were
actually hoping for me to do. Yeah,
and drawing is not an option for, like, a young black child. -That's exactly that.
-Yeah. -But I was…
-As a job. I was fortunate enough
to have a mother who truly believed
in my talent, -that from an early age,
she truly supported me. -Right. So I had
a strong supporting, um… -um, figure from an early age.
-Right. And but it was also
quite interesting, because she never saw that
as something that I would also make a living
out of it, as well. You've made more
than just a living now. I mean, you've gone from being a successful artist
in South Africa to a world-renowned artist. I mean, you know,
people come to South Africa to view your art,
to purchase your art, and I mean, everybody,
you know, from… you know, from-from-from… -Alicia Keys through
to-to Oprah Winfrey. -Yes. I mean, I remember
Oprah telling the story -of how she came
to your building. -Yeah. And you have a building in the heart of Johannesburg
in South Africa, and there's no elevator. Actually, um,
that was quite of… one of the most interesting
stories, because, um, I was on the fourth floor. -Yes.
-There was no elevator. -Right.
-So she had to take the steps from the first…
from the ground floor -to the fourth floor.
-Right. She wasn't happy at all. 'Cause I… my favorite one's,
Oprah, Oprah tells it, she's like, uh, "Oprah doesn't
climb stairs for anybody." Oprah was like, "No,"
she's like, "I'm not gon… Where is this guy? Why is he
not coming with the art?" And Nelson's like, "No,
this is where the studio is." But-but she came to you, and she
fell in love with the art, and… as many people have. Why do you think it connects with so many people
from different walks of life? Because so many people
would think of African art -as African art, but it's,
like, no, this is art, -Yeah. and you happen to be
South African. I think, like, one of the
privileges that I actually had was, um… I mean, I studied
in a community-based college, -Right. -and, um,
I applied for residency, um, which, um, I went to Italy
for three months. I think having
to have an experience of outside South Africa,
that has actually helped me to sort of view things
not only from a… an African perspective,
but to actually look at things -from a global perspective
as well. -Right. I started creating work
more like a language, a universal language.
in a way that, um, it was quite interesting, because the first thing
that I did was to use a child
as a subject in my work. Yeah, we've seen some
of those amazing pictures. You've got these images
of children, and I think
on the cover of Time, -they called it
"the art of hope." -Yeah. You know, it…
because it-it-it… showed South Africa
and African-ness in a very different way. For so long,
we've seen art that makes it… -it's all about poverty,
it's all about pain, -Yeah. it's all about suffering,
and here these images, you can… they're open
to interpretation, but they feel hopeful,
they feel young, they feel like children
who live in Africa. And the scale of them
is also huge. I mean, we have some…
some pictures of you, you know, like, working on
some of your artworks. You-you have giant,
giant pictures that you create. Why the children?
Why their eyes? Why the glasses? -What does that symbolize?
-Um, you know, I think another thing that I
actually realize as time goes, I realize that, um,
you know, uh, art… I mean, when you look at art,
it doesn't matter. I mean,
I got inspired by Picasso, which he was non… non-African. -Right. -Then you
start realizing that… And ironically, Picasso
was inspired by Africans. That's-that's
exactly there as well, but then you realize
that there was something there that says that as people, we don't necessarily,
in terms of culture, I mean, the way we live,
the world today, we all sort of aspire more or
less to the same thing, as well. -Right.
-Um… I had to use a reference
that was too close to me, which is of the child,
an African child, and the reason why I
also did that was the fact that if you look at how the image
of an African child was portrayed globally,
it was portrayed either hungry, disadvantaged
and all of that as well, but if you'd been to Africa
and you realize that none of those things…
it's almost like a taboo. -Yes.
-And, um… I had to go back
and actually reintroduce how… the way we are,
as Africans. To actually say that
we are more or less the same as any other person
in the world as well. -We're inspired…
-Right. Hardships, success, -et cetera.
-And also inspired by beauty. -Right.
-We follow culture. We love music. Um, today when you go to Africa, you have a child
who's got a smartphone. That actually tells you, in terms of where we are
as people as well. My thing and my view and… how I've actually also drawn
the inspiration from the world, the advantage of traveling
has made me to also look -at my environment as a source
of inspiration as well. -Right. And why did I actually
also had to blow them… and make them so gigantic, is to actually bring them
up close and personal. And when I did that, I realized
that it actually also created a dialogue, that as human beings
we experience the same thing. We experience the same joy. We all sort of have–
We go through the same experiences
in life as well. We go through
the same political, we go through the same
struggles as well. So as a young African who actually had been given
an opportunity to sort of like rewrite history, and re-introduce our image
to the world, I had to go back
and look at myself and say, "If I was– "If I were to sort of
represent ourselves globally, what language will I use?" I had to actually use
a universal language. I had to use a child who is close to me
as a point of reference, but that child is like
any other child in the world. We don't actually choose
to be born in certain spaces in this world. Actually, for me, it was
such a blessing to be born on a continent
that has so much history that allowed me to actually
tell that history, what is actually currently
happening as well. Take that very same inspiration that I've actually grown
globally, combine it and putting it
in-in-in an artwork as well. That's fantastic. And if you,
if you look at your art now, you're travelling the world, you're selling your artworks
in different countries. People are learning
the name Nelson Makamo. You're a part
of South Africa's growth. I mean, you're investing
in the inner city, you're changing the image of what the inner city
is all about. What is your dream for art,
African art, and African artists
as a whole? My dream is, I mean,
more than anything else, I'm an independent artist. My journey, um… I had to actually
go against art. I had to go against
the normal way, because usually an artist,
to get to a certain point, especially with exposure
and all of that, you actually have to have
someone picking you up, -like galleries as well.
-Right. -And you've done that on your
own. -I've done that on my own. because of the privilege of
having technology of today. Which, actually, what it does,
that it simplifies– Actually, for me,
my dream was for people to have access
to my work. And, um, for me, to actually be featured
on the Time, especially on the cover,
that was the only medium that I could actually wish
to have, because it allows
each and every person to have access
to my work as well. With that, I actually take that
as an advantage to say, "What can I do back at home?" We're actually setting up
spaces. Those spaces is like actually
building bridges -for young artists.
-Right. To actually see
that it's actually possible to actually make it, and to actually present
yourself globally without really having to rely on the same system
that has always been there. Because African art has
always been under looked, because of those who have
always been playing as the main players,
the gatekeepers, as maybe the Time some people
who actually use as well. But today when you actually
think about art, it's not as intimidating
as it used to be before. Because there was only
certain elite individual that used to actually
have access to art. And so your dream now
is to create a world where young African artists
can access the world with their art as opposed
to somebody telling them how their art
should be accessed. That's exactly
that as well, and… It's amazing, man. Thank you so much for being
on the show, Nelson. -Oh, thank you.
-Good having you out here. Appreciate you
and everything you do. For more information
about Nelson's work, go to Nelson Makamo, everybody.

46 thoughts on “Nelson Makamo – A South African Artist Becomes a Global Phenomenon | The Daily Show

  1. Late night hosts can learn alot from Trevor on how to do interview. The camera is just with Nelson whenever he's talking, but you can hear Trevor with a subtle "yes" on the background ground, showing how a host can disappear from the shot but still remain with his guest, and allowing them to tell their stories.

  2. Keep going, Sir Makamo. Using gift valuably that is what African Conscious Generation is about. Thank you for being on the Show. Great Interview, Sir. Noah.

  3. His art gave me chills not sure I have ever felt that from a painting…and art is my favorite medium

  4. His art is amazing it's even in KC,MO. If you have a chance please go and see it. Also is it just me or is it Ironic his first name is Nelson? Madiba baby 😁

  5. Africa this is our timeπŸŒπŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦.. Black child stand up✊✊

  6. Geez. We're taking over the world. From the Ndlovu Choir at America's Got Talent, to 2 South Africans on a US TV show… Cool.

  7. I love how many black people are invited to the show! Finally, black artists, black actors, black writers are getting the attention they deserve world wide!

  8. I'm so distracted by the awesomeness of his jumper and the amazing deep black of his wrist… if his art is as smooth as his sense of style, I'm sold

  9. His work is simple, it looks like something anyone could do, but still looks professional. It's relatable. I remember the first time I saw his work and my first remark was: If I was to buy any painting, it would have to be his work.

  10. Really? 4 floors of stairs is too much? wow, looks like Oprah never exercises and don't walk not even 5 minutes a day, that's bad

  11. A South African interviewing another South African at International Level is a BlessingπŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘

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