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ANA Spotlight: Nicky Marais

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Nicky Marais is a South African born Namibian artist. She is the founder of Visual Arts Namibia and her works depict the socio-economic history of Namibia through abstract forms and colours. Marais’ journey towards being a visual artists started when she studied fine arts at the former Port Elizabeth Technikon in Gqeberha, now known as Nelson Mandela University. When she moved to Namibia she joined a feminist magazine, Sister Namibia, where she started exhibiting her work and seating as part of the editorial board.

Image courtesy of Start Art Gallery 29.5 x 21 cm 2021 Acrylic ink on 100% cotton paper

Being an abstract painter, at its core her work focuses on the relationship between shapes and colours; the physical and the spiritual world; as well as the tangible and the intangible –  drawing inspiration from paintings in the Namib Desert. She has worked as a painter, mixed media artist, an educator as well as an activist.

Marais worked as the Head of Department of Visual Arts at the College of the Arts in Windhoek for a decade and this experience of accrediting qualifications for upcoming artists was in some way her writing history in the visual arts, one qualification at a time for one graduate at a time.

Image courtesy of Namibia Book Market

She has hosted a solo exhibition titled Presence in Absence at the National Art Gallery of Namibia where her work was in the same space that inhabits variations of African and European art at large. This exhibition was about the presence of an absent image. This means the abstract art being a little bit like music without words. Marais feels that when an artist works in an abstract way, they work with colour, tone, rhythm, light, contrast and space.

Her other solo exhibition titled Connections was held at Guns and Rain in Johannesburg and this looked at the in-betweens, the drama of what happens in the spaces between things. This is both for positive and negative space and this is translated in muted colours and tones as well as triumphant colours and tones depending on whether the spade in-between is negative or positive.

Nicky Marais, ‘Connections III’, 2020, Painting, Acrylic and acrylic ink on paper, Guns & Rain
Image courtesy of Marais’ Artsy 59.4 x 42 cm 2020 Acrylic and acrylic ink on paper

Marais’ artwork is known for telling the story of the Namibian landscape as well as the social and political history of the Namibian people – which she believes the Namibian people carry everywhere whether consciously or unconsciously. This is a story of struggle, liberation, reconciliation and nation-building. This is the story of previously oppositional elites of the fight against struggle being placed into the dominant political and economic structures of society.


Lelethu Sobekwa was born in Gqeberha, South Africa. She holds a BA Honours in English and has recently finished her MA in Creative Writing at Rhodes University. Lelethu currently writes for Art News Africa.

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