911. Three numbers that instantaneously evoke joy and respect in motoring enthusiasts around the world. Since 1963, Porsche’s rear-engine sports car has remained the brand’s iconic model, evolving over eight generations, from only one body type to a variety of different models, including the revered Turbo, as well as the unsurpassed GT models. Today, the 911 range offers a wide selection of models to thrill any passionate driver.
Picture South Africa back in the 1980s. The form and flow of Porsche’s most iconic model catches the eye of a creatively gifted child from rural Modimolle in the Limpopo Province. Young Nelson Makamo decides there and then that owning a Porsche 911 in his adult life will be one of his goals. Nelson never doubted that he would eventually succeed in realising his dream, on his terms and in his own inimitable way.
Fast forward to 2021. Nelson Makamo is a world-renowned visual artist with an impressive list of clients, including international celebrities and private collectors. One of his works featured on the cover of TIME Magazine under the banner ‘The art of optimism – 34 people who are changing how we see the world.’
After a residency in Franschhoek in the Western Cape Province, a modern day Porsche 911 in the town streets catches his eye, transporting him back to the moment he first saw its earlier evocation. Mesmerised by the evolutionary design of the 911 over the decades and now being in a position to fulfil his childhood dream, Nelson realises that the time has arrived.
A conversation follows with Porsche South Africa, fuelling the concept of creating his own customised car. Not just through Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, but by personally transforming his new vehicle into a moving canvas featuring selected hand painted elements. As a result, Nelson Makamo will become not only the proud owner of a Porsche 911, but literally, the owner of automotive art. Instead of celebrating his milestone alone, Nelson Makamo decided to use his very own 911 as a motivational artwork.
It is a daunting task at first, but Nelson painstakingly creates the individual elements for his latest art installation, hand-painting selected parts of the car at his studio in the heart of Johannesburg. These parts are then taken back to Porsche Centre Johannesburg to be lacquer coated and assembled, ready for the private unveiling.
The Porsche 911 – affectionately called “My Life in Motion” by Nelson Makamo – is an eye-catching, Jet Black Metallic Porsche 911 Carrera Coupé, featuring the artist’s signature accents, which include a hand-painted rear bumper panel, as well as side mirror covers, seatbacks and interior trim panels.
Nelson strongly believes that each person’s success results from a community or collective working together. He attributes his personal success to the various people he has met throughout his life, either through everyday interactions or through his work as an artist and of course, the diverse people he has met through his travels around the world. He says; “Your existence is not only a blessing to your family, but it’s a blessing to a whole lot of communities.”
This project encouraged Nelson to reflect on his personal journey, recalling the various individuals that had an impact on his life. Doing so, he was able to portray his belief in community through the depictions painted on the vehicle. This community has no race, age, gender or geographical origin, representing an international collective of individuals. “What better way to summarise my journey through life than by putting it in a form of collectives. We are at a point in time in the world where we are slowly moving into one culture because we care about each other as people more than anything. I want you to see yourself on the car” Nelson says looking at the rear bumper panel featuring a large crowd of people. “This 911 is meant to inspire anyone to believe that they can succeed through their passion”.
The left side door panel insert subtly bears the inscription “Mma”, purposely only visible when the door of the 911 is open. These three letters mean “Mother” in Nelson’s home language of Sepedi and are a dedication to his mother, the first artwork on which he has ever mentioned her. With this subtle, yet deeply meaningful acknowledgement, Nelson pays tribute to his Mother who supported him throughout his life, inspiring him to believe that success through art is possible, despite many challenges.
From building wire toy cars as a child, to owning a customised Porsche 911, Nelson is humbled by his success. “I always knew I was going to own a Porsche, I just never knew that my relationship with the brand would start this way – and it’s only the beginning.” The project took weeks to complete, and Nelson declared that he enjoyed every moment. There was no brief – it was entirely Nelson’s story to tell; the story of a young man who chose to believe that he can succeed.
Toby Venter, CEO of Porsche South Africa, says the project has provided great motivation: “Working with Nelson has been inspirational and this commission is on a level we’ve never seen before. This is a truly bespoke art installation worthy of any gallery. In addition, it illustrates the lengths Porsche South Africa will go to; the creativity and flexibility of our team to accommodate a request as personal as this. Porsche customers already have a virtually endless array of options available through Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur to make their car completely individual, but then, when a unique customer such as Nelson chooses to do something extraordinary, we are delighted to accommodate his wishes.”
Nelson also finds artistic inspiration from the wide-eyed innocence of children. He is particularly drawn to children in rural South Africa, believing that they embody peace and harmony we all strive for in life.
This unique vehicle is both a representation and celebration of what can be achieved when you combine talent, resilience, hard work and the unwavering support from family to reach your goals. Nelson wants his 911 to spark the imagination of the African child, to help each young girl and boy see that it’s possible to find success through their own passion.