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James Barnor Prize for African Photographers awarded to Mário Macilau

The multidisciplinary artist and activist from Mozambique, Mário Macilau, is the winner of the James Barnor Prize. This second edition focused on photographers from East Africa.

The list of nominees reads like a vibrant tapestry of African talent. It included artists from Stacey Gillian Abe in Uganda to Cedric Mizero in Rwanda. Each nominee, possessing a unique perspective, was invited to present their portfolios—a collection of visual narratives woven from their diverse experiences and keen observations.

Mário Macilau, from the series on Darkness 2015. Photo; Artist/ James Barnor Prize.
Mário Macilau, from the series on Darkness 2015. Photo; Artist/ James Barnor Prize.

In September 2023, the jury, comprising luminaries including James Barnor himself and Damarice Amao from Centre Pompidou, meticulously sifted through the applications. Amidst the talented pool, Mário Macilau’s work resonated profoundly, securing for him the highly coveted laureate title.

Portrait of Mario Macilau
Portrait of Mario Macilau

Mário Macilau, born in 1984 in Maputo, Mozambique, lives and works between his hometown, Lisbon and Cape Town. He began photography in 2003, taking his first pictures with his mother's cell phone, and became a professional photographer in 2007. Mário Macilau is a committed artist whose photography is sensitive and human. He is mainly interested in questions of identity, political and environmental issues, as well as social inequalities and injustices.

Macilau’s work has garnered international attention, with awards, gallery exhibitions, and features in global publications marking his journey. His first book in 2015, focuses on street children in Maputo. It stands as a testament to his commitment to exposing social injustices.

"I like to use photography to draw people’s attention to things they’re missing, be it environmental issues, working conditions, or human rights abuses," says Macilau.

The James Barnor Foundation, based in the UK, was initiated by Ghanaian photographer James Barnor in 2020. It aims to improve access to education and training in the arts, the preservation of African cultures, and to highlight African cultural talent.

The Foundation’s first project was the creation of the James Barnor Award. Launched in 2022, this annual prize rewards a mid-career African photographer, focusing each year on a different region of the continent.

Mário Macilau, A candle man, from Faith series, 2018. Courtesy of Ed Cross.
Mário Macilau, A candle man, from Faith series, 2018. Courtesy of Ed Cross.



The James Barnor Prize was born out of Barnor's desire to promote and support photography talents in the African continent or wider African diaspora, and to increase their visibility at an international level. This desire to focus on African photography, which is relatively rare in the field of photography awards, reminds us of the objectives of the James Barnor Foundation, to which the Prize is attached: support for African culture and the training, education and promotion of new generations of African artists.

With an endowment of 10.000 Ђ, the Prize awarded by James Barnor Foundation, is intended to reward the journey of an established photographer mid-career that needs support to get the recognition that he deserves

‘I came across a magazine with an inscription that said, “A civilisation flourishes when men plant trees under which they themselves never sit.” But it’s not only plants – putting something in somebody’s life, a young person’s life, is the same as planting a tree that you will not cut and sell. That has helped me a lot in my work. Sometimes the more you give, the more you get. That’s why I’m still going at 90!’ — James Barnor

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