CV Mário Macilau


Mário Macilau (b.1984) lives and works in Maputo, Mozambique.

Macilau started his photographic journey in 2003, and went professional after he traded his mother’s cellphone for his first camera in 2007. He specialises in long-term projects that link to multiple sub-genres; identity, political issues, environmental conditions, and engagement with socially isolated groups. Macilau is committed to initiating positive change across different cultures, locations, and perspectives. Taking portraiture as a point of departure, intimacy becomes the key to unlocking broader perspectives or narratives. The way Macilau shoots is crucial for rich compositions (black and white, with muted tones and textures), and he uses depth of field and natural light – sometimes resulting in dark black or underexposed background – to achieve a nuanced and poetic atmosphere in his images.

Macilau has been involved in many collaborative and educational projects. He is also an activist with Walking Together (WT), a project for children’s rights which also provides access to education for girls and women. WT’s aim is to equip people with tools and resources in order to transition from their current reality to one of self-suitability.

Recent awards and recognition include Macilau having being invited to participate in a program and exhibition with the United Nations Office, World Press Photo, and the Universal Rights Group (2016). Macilau was also chosen as one of the Foreign Policy’s ‘100 Leading Global Thinkers’ at a ceremony in Washington D.C. (2015). Macilau was also selected to give a talk at Harvard University in Boston as one of the panelists during the Boston Global Forum (BGF) in 2015, and again in 2016 the BGF selected Macilau to be a Michael Dukakis Leadership Fellow for 2016-2017. Macilau’s work has won several awards including the European Union Award for Environment (2015), the UNESCO-Aschberg Bursary for Visual Arts (2014), and he is a laureate of the Africa Centre’s Fountainhead Residency Award (2014).

Macilau’s work features regularly in solo and group exhibitions in his home country and abroad. Recently he was one of three artists presented at the Pavilion of the Holy See at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), with a body of work also presented at Volta NY (2016). Also in 2015, Macilau’s work was included in the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition ‘Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design’ curated by Amelie Klein with Okwui Enwezor as Consulting Curator – the exhibition is planned to tour several countries over five years. Other notable shows include ‘ENTRY PROHIBITED TO FOREIGNERS’ curated by Elise Atangana at the Havremagasinet – Boden Art Center, Sweden (2015), ‘Pangea: New Art from Africa and Latin America’ at Saatchi Gallery, London (2014), Fotofest Biennial, Houston (2014), International Biennial of Casablanca, Morocco (2014), ‘Tempo’ Galeria Belo-Galsterer, Lisbon (2013), Dak’art Biennial OFF, Dakar (2012), Rencontres de Bamako, Bamako (2011), VI Chobi Mela Photo Festival, Dhaka (2011), Photo Spring, Beijing (2011), and Lagos Photo, Lagos (2010 & 2011).

Macilau was selected by Fotofestiwal in Łódź, Poland to present his first monograph ‘Growing in Darkness’ at a huge solo exhibition within the festival entitled ‘Discovery Show’ (2015). Other notable solo shows includes ‘The Road Not Taken’ at The Auction Room, London (2015), ‘Nada Como O Tempo’ curated by Berry Bickle at Kulungwana Gallery in Maputo (2015), ‘Fora da Cidade’ at Blank Projects, Cape Town (2014), and ‘Moments of Transition’ at Belo-Galsterer Gallery, Lisbon (2014).

Macilau’s work is held in many private and public collections.

Curriculum Vitae


Centro de Formação e Documentação Fotográfica, Maputo, Mozambique

Solo Exhibitions

Art Paris Art Fair, Ed Cross booth, Paris, France
One Way, Mov’Art Gallery, Luanda, Angola
Moments of Transition, Art Africa Fair, Cape Town, South Africa

Rostos e Espaços, Espaço Luanda Arte, Luanda, Angola, curated by Keyezua
Volta Art Fair, Ed Cross booth, New York, USA

The Road Not Taken, The Auction Room, London, United Kingdom
Discover Show, Fotofestiwal Łódź, Poland
Nada Como O Tempo, Kulungwana Gallery, Maputo, Mozambique, curated by Berry Bickle

The Price of Cement, Gallery Jatad, Houston, Texas, USA
Fora Da Cidade, blank projects, Cape Town, South Africa
Moments of Transition, Galeria Belo-Galsterer, Lisbon, Portugal

Tempo, Galeria Belo-Galsterer, Lisbon, Portugal

Living on the Edge, Kuona Art Trust, Nairobi, Kenya
Taking Place, Gallery Influx Contemporary, Lisbon, Portugal

Life goes on, Mediateca do BCI, Mozambique
Wood and Deforestation, Kokopelli Festival, Belgium

Terra de Boa Gente, Instituto Camões, Maputo, Mozambique

Selected Group Exhibitions

AAKA Fair, Ed Cross booth, Paris, France
FNB Joburg Art Fair, Espaço Luanda Arte booth, Johannesburg, South Africa

Pavilion of the Holy See at the 56th Venice Biennale, Italy
Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, Vitra Design Museum, Germany
ENTRY PROHIBITED TO FOREIGNERS, Havremagasinet – Boden Art Center, Sweden, curated by Elise Atangana
1:54 Contemporary Art Fair, Ed Cross booth, London, United Kingdom
FNB Joburg Art Fair, blank projects booth, Johannesburg, South Africa

Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America, Saatchi Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Fotofest Biennial, Houston, Texas, USA
No Fixed Abode, The New Church Museum, Cape Town, South Africa
next thing you know, blank projects, Cape Town, South Africa
International Biennial of Casablanca, Morocco
FNB Joburg Art Fair: blank projects booth, Johannesburg, South Africa

NATURA, Paisagem e Natureza, Museu Nogueira da Silva, Braga, Portugal, curated by Alda Galsterer

Convergências, Alliance Française, Madrid, Spain & King’s Place, London, United Kingdom
Dak’art Biennial OFF, Dakar, Senegal
Crossing Point Residency, Les Rencontres d’Arles, France
the KLM in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Africa. See me, see you! Photo Spring Festival, Beijing, China
VI Chobi Mela Photo Festival, Dhaka, Bangladesh
BESPhoto, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
BESPhoto, Berardo Museum Collection, Lisbon, Portugal
São Tomé Biennial, São Tomé Island
Bamako Biennial, Mali
Lagos Photo, Lagos, Nigeria
Common Language, for PLMJ Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal, curated by Miguel Amado
South is the new North, Gallery Influx Contemporary Art, Lisbon, Portugal
Hasselblad Master Finalist, Studio, London, United Kingdom
Hasselblad Master Finalist, Siren Studios, Los Angeles, USA
Hasselblad Master Finalist, Shoot NYC, (La Venue), New York City, USA
Hasselblad Master Finalist, Delight Studios, Berlin, Germany
Pinacoteca de Estado de São Paulo in Brazil

Festival de Cine Africano de Tarifa, Tarifa, Spain
VI Certamen de Fotografia Digital, Santa Lucia, Spain
32st Internationaal Fotofestival, Knokke-Heist, Belgium
LagosPhoto, Lagos, Nigeria
Mulheres e Fronteiras – Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano, Maputo, Mozambique
Dockanema Film Festival, Maputo, Mozambique
Bamako – Maputo, Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano, Maputo, Mozambique
FotoArt, Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano, Maputo, Mozambique
Gwanza Photo Festival, Harare National Museum of Art, Harare, Zimbabwe

Bienal da TDM, Maputo Museum of Art, Maputo, Mozambique
Gwanza Photo Festival, Harare National Museum of Art, Harare, Zimbabwe
Month of Photography, Cape Town, South Africa
Sonhos Perdidos, Rua de Arte, Maputo, Mozambique
Cozinhas Ambulantes, Centro de Formação e Documentação Fotográfica, Maputo, Mozambique
Unicef Photo of the Year Award, finalist exhibition
VI Certamen de Fotografia Digital, Santa Lucia
Ponto de Convergência, ICMA/Goethe-Zentrum, Maputo, Mozambique

Grants & Awards

Finalist in the LensCulture Exposure Awards

Boston Global Forum (BGF) Michael Dukakis Leadership Fellow for 2016-2017
Nominated for the Greenpeace Photo Award

Delegation of the EU Delegate to Mozambique, Photography Award for Climate Change (2nd Prize), Maputo, Mozambique

The UNESCO-Aschberg Bursary for Visual Arts, Paris, France

Shortlisted for The Sovereign Middle East and African Art Prize

Nominated for The Prix Pictet
Photographers’ Portfolio Meeting – organised by Goethe Institut Johannesburg, held in Congo, D.R.C.
EVTZ Foundation Prize, Germany

The Protection Project, Photography Contest (1st Prize), Washington D.C., USA
Hasselblad Master Finalist
Nominated for BES Photo Prize, Lisbon-São Paulo
3rd Prize from Stiftung EVZ, 8th Photography Competition
3rd Prize at Biennial of TDM, Maputo, Mozambique
Mozambican Talent Award, French Embassy and French Cultural Centre ‘Women with Power Award Photo Contest’, Maputo
Award for Creation, awarded by the AECID (Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo) and the
Spanish Embassy in Mozambique
Santa Lucia Award, Spain
CACAU Casa das Artes Criação Ambiente Utopias, São Tomé Island

Nominated Unicef Photo of The Year
National Museum of Art (Honourable Mention), Maputo, Mozambique
Amandla Magazine (1st Prize), Johannesburg, South Africa
Festival da Baia (2nd Prize), Maputo, Mozambique


PLMJ Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal
Banco Comercial e de Investimentos (BCI), Maputo, Mozambique
French Ambassy in Maputo, Mozambique
African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), Lagos, Nigeria

Selected Residencies

Camões Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, Visual Arts & Photography Residency, Lisbon, Portugal

Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP), São Paulo, Brazil
Human Rights Council Photography Project & Training, Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN Offices in Geneva,
World Press Photo, and Universal Rights Group, Geneva, Switzerland
Tiroche DeLeon Collection Residency, Tel Aviv, Israel
Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP) Residency, São Paulo, Brazil

The Fountainhead Residency, Miami, USA

Sacatar Foundation, Bahia, Brazil

Biennale Arts Actuels in Réunion Islands

VISA pour la Création, Residency Grant by the French Institute (L’Institut Français), Paris, France
Kuona Trust AIR (Artist in Residency) Program, Nairobi, Kenya
Crossing Point Residency Program, Fondation Blachère & Photo-Festivals, Rencontres d’Arles, Ales, France
Oazo Art Space, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa


Mário Macilau
Publishers: Kehrer Verlag
Authors: Gabriela Salgado, Mia Couto, Mário Macilau, Olivia Nitis, Roger Ballen, Simon Njami
Design: Christine Beroff
Hardcover: 30.5 x 28 cm, 180 pages
English / French / Portuguese
ISBN 978-3-86828-639-7
Year: 2016


Macilau recently founded Walking Together (WT), an organisation that operates from his studio, working for children’s rights and providing access to education for girls and women. WT provides tools and resources for these individuals to move from their
current reality to to one of self- sustainability.

Artist’s Statement

I consider my photographic practice to be a visual investigation, taking a critical view on identity, political issues, and environmental conditions. These three broad themes come into focus through their impact on socially isolated groups, groups who need to retrieve their voices and to cast light on these issues as they affect their own particular experience.

I attempt to explore the way in which conditions of labour, cultural heritage and the environment alter over time. I have always concerned myself specifically with how these conditions are articulated through the environment in which people live, and the relationship that people have to that environment. How do humans sustain themselves and adapt to shifting environments, when their labor, their lives, and by extension, their relationships to one another are all affected by that environment. This results in short or long-term projects to present the ongoing positions facing these communities.

My work is also a personal documentary. I prefer long-term projects that require commitment and trust, which leads to a better understanding of these conditions, and to seeing the beauty that resides in the hearts of the people. I have come from the same culture and the same reality, between the agony and joy of life, and this is how and why I can access those stories.

Portraiture has an intimacy to it that, for my work, is key to unlocking a broader perspective in the viewer, or a narrative. In addition, I often include my own everyday experiences and observations in my work, experiences I have as a human being, a witness, a person from a particular reality that interacts with other people from their unique realities. I consider these everyday interactions as my lifelong research, and they are also how I come across new threads of interest. Photography is my language, the way I can react and contribute to sensitive subjects, or those hidden from us. In all my work I try give dignity to the people who I photograph, to give them that dignity and also to create positive change to their lives through the messages in the photographs.

Monochrome analogue photography is my preferred choice because, for me, black-and-white allows composition, light, shadow, texture and tonal qualities of the image to come across more powerfully and obviously than when colour is present. In addition I believe that my black-and-white portraits have an entirely different impact than if they were in colour because, through this attention to formal detail, we are also allowed to see the subjects themselves with less distractions. I feel we can get a better sense of emotion, and we can understand the subject as an individual. I find colour photography more dramatic and with its own set of strengths, but once you cover a compelling subject in colour the viewers become interested in those colours, more so than the person depicted.

In my work I purposefully exploit depth of field, and natural light. The permanency of darkness often comes across, as I shoot early in the morning, or at night where darkness can be outside or inside. I do this to bring a poetic factor to my work, which allows the viewer easier access to that broader perspective or narrative. I do this so that the way you see the person photographed is the same as how I saw them. You can see them for the people that they are, dignified individuals who deserve our affection and empathy.

Artworks in the SAFFCA Collection