Durbanville artist bags prestigious prize

At just 22, Nicola Roos is showing that passion, hard work and a love for what you do, are the pillars for success.

Nicola recently graduated from UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art with a sculpture major.

She received The Michaelis Prize for achieving 95 percent in her final practical project. This is the most prestigious prize awarded annually to the most outstanding body of work produced by a student during their final year.

Her work, the fifth instalment in a series, No Man’s Land, was based on Yasuke, a samurai of black African origin. There are various accounts of his origins but according to one, he came from Mozambique.

He arrived in Japan in 1579 in the service of a missionary.

Originally named Yasufe (Yasuke being the phonetic Japanese adaptation), this 6-foot-tall youth caught the attention of Oda Nobunaga, a powerful feudal lord, who appointed Yasuke to his personal guard.

Yasuke was promoted to the rank of Samurai and later promoted to the coveted position of Nobunaga’s sword-bearer.

Primarily working in life-size sculptural installations constructed out of recycled rubber tyre tubing, Nicola investigates the origins of civilisation and society, as well as the ever-changing politics of national identity and cultural belonging in the post-colonial world.

Nicola spent a lot of time researching Yasuke, with her pieces taking about nine weeks to complete.

For the rest of the year, she plans doing thesis research for her Master’s degree, which she will complete next year.

In her third year, Nicola’s work was picked up by the Erdmann Contemporay Gallery, while she was working as an assistant to the director. Nicola has always wanted to be an artist and she took extra art lessons while at school.

“I was fortunate to find something I am passionate about. A lot of students are stuck because they don’t have a specific direction they want to go into,” she says.

The art world can be unpredictable, and Nicola feels it’s important for artists to be able to market themselves.

“It’s about networking and putting your work out there,” she says.

She advises artists struggling to get into the industry to show people their work, attend art functions and events and promote their work on social media.

“There are so many platforms which give you an opportunity to build your brand. You are also able to network with other artists from around the world.”

When not busy in her garage studio, Nicola enjoys photography and travelling. She’s interested in learning how to cast silver and make jewellery, which she plans to use in her art. Her advice to aspiring artists is to follow their passion.

“There will be a lot of people who will try to talk you out of it – asking how you will make a living out of this, but it is possible.”

For more on Nicola’s works, you can follow her on Instagram at roosnicola and on Twitter