ANA Spotlight

Mário Macilau is The Recipient of The 2023 James Barnor Photography Prize

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Mário Macilau (b. 1984, Mozambique) is the winner of the James Barnor Photography Prize, 2023. His artwork, a true ode to Mozambique, aims to highlight the effects of human labor and the environment. His photographs, mainly shot in black and white, feature muses of all ages who depict the soul of Mozambique. However, this remarkable achievement is just one chapter in the captivating story of this artist’s incredible journey.

Faith Series.Hahnemuhle photo rag paper. 133 × 200 cm. Image courtesy of Artsy.

Mário Macilau’s passion for photography ignited in the vibrant markets of Mozambique when he, at the tender age of 14, first grasped the power of a camera. His humble beginnings epitomize the essence of self-taught dedication and a relentless pursuit of his craft. Recollecting those early days, he revealed, “I started to take photographs of my surroundings, documenting people from the townships as they traveled to the city to sell their things. I developed black-and-white photos in a darkroom I made in my mother’s house.”

Macilau’s roots in the art form are deeply entrenched in the raw, monochromatic lens of black and white. Although he has transitioned to digital photography, he continues to wield the profound symbolism of black and white in his work. As a true storyteller, he captures the essence of Mozambique and other diverse populations, where he both resides and passionately plies his craft.

One of the most compelling aspects of Mário Macilau’s work is his unwavering commitment to showcasing dignity and unique identities. He champions individuals hailing from marginalized and often overlooked communities. Through his lens, he bestows upon them the recognition they rightly deserve.

Macilau’s artistic odyssey has spanned across continents. His work has graced exhibitions throughout Africa as well as gained acclaim in Europe and the United States. With each camera click, he brings forth the unseen, weaving narratives that transcend borders and cultures.

A Candle Man, 2015-2019.Pigmented inkjet on cotton rag paper
80 × 120 cm image courtesy of Artsy.

Mário Macilau affirms his exceptional talent, tireless dedication, and artistic vision in recognition of his profound impact on the world of photography. His remarkable journey from a self-taught photographer in the markets of Mozambique to an internationally acclaimed artist is nothing short of inspiring.

The James Barnor Photography Prize is a fitting accolade, honoring an artist whose work exemplifies the power of visual storytelling. His work is a timeless resonance of black and white photography. Mário Macilau’s work, we glimpse the soul of Mozambique and the universal stories of humanity that resonate with us all.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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