Mário Macilau has been awarded the prestigious prize for his series Faith documenting the practice of animism in contemporary Mozambique.
The second edition of the James Barnor Foundation Prize goes to multi-disciplinary artist-activist Mário Macilau. Accompanied by a €10,000 grant, the James Barnor Foundation Prize aims to reward the careers of established photographers and lead them to recognition.
Mário Macilau is primarily renowned for his photographic work and considered one of the key figures of the new generation of Mozambican artists. Born in 1984 in Maputo, like many children he had to work at an early age to help his family, an experience that would shape his artistic approach. Today, Macilau lives and works between Maputo, Lisbon and Cape Town, and regularly travels abroad to produce his photographic work. Over the years, Mário Macilau has developed a style that evokes a certain sensitivity in his choice of subjects and his ability to connect with them.
In his series Faith, Macilau documents the practice of animism (the belief that everything has a soul or spirit) within traditional religions in contemporary Mozambique. Featuring isolated communities increasingly imperilled by climate change, the work’s documentary as well its aesthetic function is more important than ever.
The James Barnor Foundation, based in the UK, was initiated by Ghanaian photographer James Barnor in 2020. It aims to improve access to education and training in the arts, the preservation of African cultures, and to highlight African cultural talent.
The Foundation’s first project was the creation of the James Barnor Award. Launched in 2022, this annual prize rewards a mid-career African photographer, focusing each year on a different region of the continent.
A pioneer of Ghanaian photography, James Barnor has always made a point of sharing his work with new generations of African photographers. Today, at the age of 94, he continues to influence many contemporary artists, and has sought to give concrete expression to this spirit of transmission through an annual prize dedicated to African photographers.
Organized on a six-year cycle, the prize is awarded each year to an artist from a different region of the African continent: the first edition of the prize, in 2022, was dedicated to West Africa, and rewarded Beninese photographer Sènami Donoumassou.
This desire to focus on African photography, relatively rare in the field of photographic prizes, stems from the objectives of the James Barnor Foundation, organizer of the Prize: support for African culture and the educa- tion, training and promotion of new generations of African artists.
About Mário Macilau
Mário Macilau began photography in 2003, spending the first years of his career in training. In 2007, he launched his career as a professional photographer, abandoning his mother’s cell phone in favor of a NIKON FM2 camera. Within a short space of time, he gained international recognition. Macilau won several awards, worked all over the world, and saw his work exhibited internationally. In particular, he was presented by the Fon- dation Dapper at the Dakar Biennale in 2022. He published his first book Growing in Darkness with Kehrer Editions in 2015, with texts by Roger Ballen, Mia Couto and Simon Njami.
His photography highlights questions of identity, political issues and environmental conditions, giving a voice to socially isolated groups, not only pointing out the world’s inequalities and social injustices, but also capturing scenes of humanity, fraternity, victory, love and hope. Using portraiture as a starting point, his photographic approach opens the door to broader perspectives.
For Macilau, photography can both show the harsh realities of life and develop a social conscience, through the perception of problems in Mozambique and elsewhere. His photographs illustrate how the envi- ronment affects individuals in their daily lives, always seeking to establish a certain level of truth with his subjects, avoiding the emotional barrier that the presence of a camera can create.
He is represented by Ed Cross Fine Art Gallery. Mário Macilau was nominated for the James Barnor Award by Christine Barthe and Owanto.