mario macilau



New Year, New SPLASH...dive down into our creative roundup!
The Splash


The SPLASH is back...
The Splash

Jesper Eriksson - Transformative Materials

We sat down with the London based artist to discuss coal, fossil fuels and the nature of materials.


Photographer Kasia Wozniak and set designer Lisa Jahovic present 'Negative Mirror' ...

PRIDE 2018

Here’s our pick of the best Pride campaigns of 2018 ...
The Splash

Photo Diary

Whilst attending Biennale Architettura 2018 Rob Fiehn documented some well known faces with his trusty Olympus OM20 ...

'Freespace' Preview

Architectural correspondent Rob Fiehn picks his highlights to check out this summer at Biennale Architettura 2018 ...

Gavin Coyle - man of the woods

Bobby Jewell sits down with furniture maker Gavin Coyle ...

Christiane Spangsberg - Works In Progress

Imogen Eveson spends an evening in Sydney with Danish artist Christiane Spangsberg, as she sketches out the year ahead following three sell-out shows in 13 months ...

Rowan Williams on Education

Designer Rowan Williams reflects on his experience of his design education ...


It's our last creative news round-up of 2017 .... Enjoy!
The Splash

Adventures in Dalbergia

We paid a visit to the studio of Federico Méndez-Castro, a fine dust maker located on Granville Island, Vancouver ...

mario macilau

The extraordinary, everyday ...


'Tis the season to be jolly (almost!). Before the holiday season sweeps you off your feet take five minutes to have a look our latest round-up of creative news. Enjoy!
The Splash

The Goldloxe Effect

Creating in the shadows ...

The Enduring Allure Of Indigo

Jenny Balfour Paul shares what makes the power and draw of natural indigo so enduring and what we can learn from its rich and magical history ...


An audio visual explosion this week, plus an array of very very interesting objects from Athens ... Enjoy!
The Splash


We chat to the NYC based designer about his practice, wax chandeliers & chairs having conversations ...

Empty spaces to extraordinary experiences

Museum and interior design practice Casson Mann talk about how they create world-class innovative and engaging experiences.


Ease into the start of the weekend with another round-up of creative news ...


That name sounds familiar! Rob Fiehn sits down with architectural studio SODA to find out about their Soho beginnings and how they're searching out interesting new projects.


Take 5 and read our round-up of creative news ...
The Splash

the perfect equilibrium

Rethinking creative strategies to balance profit with consumer wellbeing ...


We kick-off the start of October with another round-up of creative news ...
The Splash


Last week we ventured into the heart of London Design Festival to surround ourselves with the best the city’s creative scene has to offer. Here are some of our top picks…..
The Splash

Steven Learner

The founder of the Collective Design Fair shares his insight into the design industry ...


Another selection of creative news ...
The Splash

Mark Denton Esq.

We sat down with Mark Denton Esq. Ad Man Extraordinaire ...


Dive into another round-up of creative thoughts and news ...
The Splash

The Old Fashioned Way

“You never have to backup a sketch book, and a pencil will never run out of batteries …”


A Tuesday treat! A round-up of creative news from across Europe ...
The Splash

Faces In Focus

Making change through photography, the latest Faces In Focus exhibition opens on August 31st ...


From Game Of Thrones to Prince, and everything in between ...
The Splash

Vivienne Brophy

Vivienne Brophy defines future practitioners as Head of Architecture at University College Dublin ...

Denim & Steel

'Denim & Steel Interactive' create intuitive, strategy-led software and technology. We sat down with founders Todd Sieling and Tylor Sherman in their studio in our SODA x VANCOUVER series ...


We've got some interesting news for you ...
The Splash


Our monthly series showcasing ongoing work from photographers and artists around the globe ... this month we're delighted to introduce Aidan O'neill and his Swaziland story ...


Our latest creative news round-up .....
The Splash

Kauri multimedia: the storytellers

The Award Winning filmmakers tell us their story ...


The best subway ever and other musings on the latest creative news ...
The Splash


mario macilau

The photographer Mario Macilau draws his inspiration from the community, people and environment of his home in Mozambique. Here he shares his thoughts about the growing global interest in ‘African’ art and tells us more about the extraordinarily ordinary people that he captures in his portraiture work ...

The global trend and interest in ‘African’ art and design has been growing in recent years. While on one hand it’s a good thing for creativity across Africa to be getting lots of exposure, I think it could also be quite damaging because often the diversity and richness of the continent gets lost underneath the generic label of ‘African’. 

‘African’ art does not exist. It’s such a huge continent, representing a third of the world’s population, and so being called an ‘African’ artist or designer by the media or outside observers can never really do justice to the unique environments and cultures that each creative has experienced and grown up in.

All countries in Africa have their own culture, their own way of doing things and their own way of living. They all have a unique environment. It's this infinite richness that is often overlooked in the West and in Europe. Life in Africa is frequently generalised or seen as being just one way: negative, undesirable, poor. And so the art that comes from the country is commoditised in a particular way because of this context. But there is no universal culture or universal way of living across the continent and I think people from other parts of the world would be amazed to take a closer look and listen to the real Africa.

For example, I get very inspired by the people and lifestyles from my home in Mozambique because where I grew up everyone had to fight for life. There were so many unique, real-life stories happening all around me everyday and it made me realise that life isn’t about having class and social divisions between people, it’s about creating as happy a life as you possibly can. In my work I try to focus on the normality of this environment, the life I lived then and live now, the things I saw back then that still exist today. It's important for me to focus on my community because it helps me to understand myself more and the world around me. My work is often about locally relevant political issues, environmental conditions and socially isolated groups. I use the intimacy of portrait photography to tell the stories that are not being told and to give a voice to hidden identities and cultural issues that fascinate me.

 For example, at the moment I am working on a project called Faith, which is the second part of the project I did in the past titled the Zionist. ‘Faith’ documents the practice of ‘animism’ in contemporary Mozambique. This form of animism comes from traditional religions in which members believe in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena (where the spirits of ancestors can affect the lives of the living). Through their practices, these traditional religions preserve ancient traditions of Mozambican cultures. These practices involve teachings, traditional medicine, healing methods, rites of passage for young men and women, and advise on appropriate conduct between members of the community. They reflect local and yet diverse conceptions of God and the cosmos. 

Within the same community, there may be differences in perception of what is, or what is not, supernatural. While the adopted religions of Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism are statistically dominant, these foreign religions have not entirely erased Mozambican traditional practices. While nearly half the population practice traditional animist beliefs, many groups are monotheistic at the same time as believing in traditional understandings of spiritualism. As such, it is not unusual for traditional beliefs to be incorporated into the dominant foreign religions, and conversely, to find visual or ritualistic motives from dominant monotheistic religions in the practice of traditional beliefs. So Faith explores these unique approaches to religion and spirituality in my home of Mozambique.

Like me, a lot of local photographers are using their vision to articulate the experience they have had growing up and living here. This is the opposite of what has happened in the past, where our stories have been told by outsiders, sometimes commoditised, exaggerated or glamorised. I think the time has come for us to turn the camera on our own stories and give a voice to the voiceless locally. When I look around me, I think photography is growing in Africa and it might well be the medium of the future and the way that we do this.

I can understand that some young artists living in Africa might be tempted by the surge of interest in ‘African’ art, and are drawn to the ‘African' branding because they see it as a way that others can try to understand their work. But these artists shouldn’t forget to draw on their local environments and tell their own stories through their work. ‘African’ art and design is a fashion and it can quickly go out of fashion. Instead, let’s focus on creating work with real depth, local integrity and meaning that will stand the test of time.

  • Words & Photography by Mario Macilau
Further Reading:

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Catch up on all the latest news from State Of Design Affairs right in your inbox.

Remind me later
Please dont ask me again

Thank you for signing up, don't forget to check your inbox to confirm your email.