Rising Stars: John Makama


Nigerian self taught artist Makama John (b. May 31st 1992) has been painting and drawing all his life and went professional in 2020. He works from his home studio in Abuja Nigeria. He uses Charcoal, Acrylic and Oil as his medium. He captures confidence, beauty and essence of his models in eye gaze, green skin and poker dots.

Makama John


As eye-catching as intriguing, Makama John’s portraits are irrevocably in tune with the creative bubbling of Africa. His creations are marked by blazing colours, brilliantly put in contrast to enhance his subjects whose unchanging gazes are filled with unwavering confidence and poise. The aesthetic signature he developed with the green polka-dotted skin gives all the uniqueness to his representations, this recognisable from miles away. He decided to wear the hat of a full time artist three years ago.

Distinctness quickly became a crucial thing for the young painter who decided to cultivate a bold visual signature: sharp-eyed individuals represented with emerald green skin covered with black polka dots. An unusual, yet brilliantly exploited, choice of pigment that John explains as coming from childhood memories when, growing up on his grandparents’ farm, green would fill his daily visual environment. “It’s the green we find on the farmland, everywhere is always green during the rainy season. It is memories of me helping my granddad. I realized that with green, I could represent agriculture, growth, prosperity.” As for the black dots covering his subjects – who are mostly John’s close friends – they symbolize all the individuals who, singularly, make up Africa’s plurality “but the artist likes to say that they also represent every human on earth because from the evolution perspective we are all African”

Through these piercing glances, he addresses the social issues of his time, questions about gender, the journey of growing up, the transmission of tradition and the importance of mental well being among young people in his environment and the world at large.

Us against the world (from the series Love will set us free), 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 40 by 30 inches 

Love as a concept scares the hell out of people because of the level of commitment it takes to actualise it’s true meaning, you can’t say you have love without self Denial and sacrifice. The ideology of love has been watered down over the years, love has become transactional, love is not giving something to get back another thing or same thing in return, love is a need, love is repulsive.
It is letting go of all fear and pouring out all emotion and making a conscious effort towards loving, it could be a person or a pet or even a particular thing.
Communication is key when we talk about this concept, how we relate with or to the people around us, how we tell them the way we want to be treated and how they tell us how they want to be treated too both verbally and none verbally.

My dreams are unimaginable.
They scare me.
Maybe because I have set so many bars for myself that where unrealistic.
I am fully aware of my environment and how I have struggled to bring my dreams to reality , the thought of it is mentally tasking and exhausting.
Well should I stop dreaming?
Maybe just maybe it has become an escape mechanism to run from this reality.
My reality is not friendly, it isn’t a place I want to be.
But maybe, just maybe my fantasy’s will be a domain for my dwelling soon.
So I keep my eyes shut and let my imagination take me to those places I haven’t been yet.
So I keep dreaming.

Day Dreamer, 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 30 by 30 inches

Bhoi Bee, 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 18 by 24 inches 

This painting is about the dreams and possibilities of a young boy liberated in his mind although constrained by his environment.
He wants to be at his best at all times, cultivating every ability and potential buried within himself,he tries to explore every opportunity available for him to become who he wants to be.
Looking at how he manoeuvres through life and how hard he decides to be different and exceptional I decided to paint my friends portrait,to immortalise him and in my own way tell his story.

Before I made this painting, I gave deep thoughts to these two questions: Why do people grow old and what is beauty and who defines beauty? Here’s a summary of my thoughts: Beauty is encapsulated in the Soul!

A person’s beauty will always reflect even when they’re old and grey.
The physical body will definitely fade away, age and grow wrinkled but what we constantly consume into our minds/heart is what shapes our behavioural construct, how we perceive life and relate with others, how kind we are, and how we positively impact our world. This is what the soul is and this is where beauty is. All these will stand the test of time and last even till our old age and beyond therefore beauty is “TIMELESS.”

Timeless, 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 42 by 50 inches

The Cactus Story, 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 30 by 40 inches

I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men,they are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a woman she will make greater.

If you give her sperm she’ll give you a baby.
If you give her a house she’ll give you a home.
If you give her groceries she’ll give you a meal.
If you give her a smile she’ll give you her heart.
She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.
So if you give her any crap,be ready to receive a ton of shit.

by “William Golding”

This painting is part of the series “A journey to serenity”. I made the series in an attempt to look at issues surrounding mental health and depression.

This particular piece shows a lady in a state of worry, with a piecing eye gaze she sits with her hand supporting her chick/chin in deep thoughts and contemplation.

Deep contemplation (from the series A journey to Serenity), 2023
Charcoal, Acrylic and Oils on canvas, 30 by 30 inches 

For more information about the artist, please visit:

Instagram: @artist_makamajohn

All photographs courtesy of Makama John
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