10 Objects with Io Makandal

The objects we surround ourselves with tell stories of who we are. Things – found, sourced, collected, cherished – have particular meaning in Io Makandal’s installation art. Human-made objects and organic materials are intuitively placed alongside each other in her abstract 3-dimensional compositions that speak to the relationship between the urban environment and the natural world. In these colourful, chaotic yet considered works, line and form are a piece of string or a plastic container. Each item holds meaning individually and together they create a dialogue or scuffle for attention. “Objects, to me, have a distinct agency in their ability to speak,” Io says, “They vibrate and are vital and so become things that embody stories. This is the departure point for my tactile drawing (installations) – the material salads of thingness”

Io’s obsession since childhood with collecting things to live with, make with and contemplate is a habit inspired by her parents, collectors themselves. As a child, it was a secret pastime of hers to go through her father’s steel cabinet drawers which housed a curious collection of things: hairballs made from human hair, small figurines, tiny sculptures made from wax or lead, a tobacco pipe, a stone, a drawer full of spectacles, a drawer full of scissors. “I would stand on a stool and systematically open and close each drawer and look at the objects “inanimately” lying inside of them,” she says, “Sometimes if my eyes were not enough, I would inspect them with my hands, take them to my nose and smell them and on occasion lick them to discover what their taste was.”

This was the beginning of her love for what she calls “thingness”, the integral way she experiences the world, and the informant of her work.


Here we interview Io through 10 objects from her home and studio in Johannesburg.


1. Nourish – to provide with food, water or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition. 

Io Makandal

My mother made my sisters and I rooibos tea in this teapot every morning when we were young. Inside it is stained with years of tea-making. This pot is the reason I love the ritual of drinking tea and is responsible for my 50+ teapot collection. 


2. Contain – to hold something within.

Io Makandal

I found this container on the side of the road by Egoli Gas on Banting Rd, Joburg. I was driving, on my way home, when it caught my eye. It immediately interpolated my journey home that I had to turn the car around and drive back to fetch it. This to me is when matter is vital; this thing arrested me in that moment and I had to respond to it. I’ve used it in several ways in my work since and it is a thing and form that continues to make an appearance in my installations.


3. Scrutinise – to examine or inspect closely and thoroughly.

Io Makandal

I came upon this little magnifying glass gadget by chance a few years ago while christmas shopping for my family. I bought it as a christmas gift to myself. I used it first in a work titled Carne for my solo show in 2017. It holds some of my cat’s hair that has been felted. As an object, it suggests a scrutiny of something intimate and of domesticity. I like the absurdity of the combination of both object and thing.


4. Mark – to delineate with a series of marks.

Io Makandal

My father had a full set of every Copic marker you can think of. He gave my sisters and I a set of his old Copic markers as children to draw with. I was completely enamoured with these drawing tools. They seemed magical to me because they had two different types of nibs and such vivid colours. As an 8 year old they were the coolest thing ever to me. And so since then my collection of Copic markers has grown and I continue to use them for my drawing.


5. Coax – to obtain something by gradual or gentle persuasion.

Io Makandal

A dear friend gave me this artwork by Walter Battiss one evening while we sat outside having dinner in the excruciating heat during Johannesburg’s drought a couple of years ago. We coaxed the sky asking it to rain and with that she gave me this card. Lo and behold it rained the next day! Forever more this piece of art will be my lucky rain postcard to which I beckon the rain. 


6. Indulge – to enjoy the pleasure of something freely.

Io Makandal Io Makandal

This remnant of a wine glass is the result of an evening at the Cape Town Art Fair in 2017. A friend and I have a ritual of going to the opening night of the fair and buying art we cannot responsibly afford. We were in one of the booths when someone asked to take a picture of us and so I lifted my leg and accidentally knocked over my glass of wine the moment everyone shouted in unison “watch out for the glass!” How often is it that a glass breaks only at the stem? It now lives with me as a precarious bell jar. 


7. Cast – to shape a material by pouring into a mould to create an object.

Io Makandal

This is a cast of my pinky finger in black resin. It was at first a playful experiment in my studio. I really enjoyed the rudimentary process I used to create casts of my fingers with some malleable putty and resin. It allowed for the shape and form of the finger to mutate, so it never was a perfect replication of my finger, but still my finger nonetheless. I was curious about this idea of looking at something that was familiar but was foreign as well because of how it had deformed through the process of being made. 


8. Praise – to express warm approval or admiration of something.

Io Makandal

I found this lion at the Milnerton Market in Cape Town during the time when I was living there to do my undergraduate. What attracted me to it was his solemn and sincere expression and how haphazardly the paint has been applied to create his expression. It’s so wonderfully kitsch. He lives in my house perched high on a shelf, watching over all the other objects I keep as somewhat of a guardian. He also makes an appearance in my installations from time to time. 


9. Adhere – to stick fast to a surface.

Adhesive tape is one of my favourite kinds of materials. I appreciate its form and its variety of functions. I have an extensive collection of different kinds of tape from aluminium tape, masking tape in at least three different colours and sizes, duck tape, insulation tape, acid free tape and the list goes on. I buy tape whenever I travel. This specific tape is not that special in that I bought it from a hardware store in Johannesburg because I needed red tape for one of my tactile drawings. 


10. Crush – to pulverise and force inwards by compressing forcefully.

Io Makandal

I am an impulsive rock collector. I pick up rocks wherever I go. This act of collecting rocks I think is a way for me to remember my experiences and where I have been. I laugh at myself sometimes as I even keep rocks in my handbag and from time to time will discover them resting in there while looking for my car keys or something and will then hold it for a moment and recall the memory of where I picked it up from. This particular rock is too large to keep in my handbag so I keep it on a shelf. It is from Timbavati in Mpumalanga. I collected it when I was a child because I believed it was a dinosaur’s egg. At home I then used it to crush open macadamia nut shells.


See Io’s work at iomakandal.com.

Photographs by Koos Groenewald.


To Meet The Threshold 

Installation view


No End Gallery

Copyright and courtesy of Io Makandal

Photo by Gavin Goodman


Featured Images Artwork:



Installation view


Invested Cape Town Art Fair

Tomorrow’s Today curated by Tumelo Mosaka

Everard Read Gallery

Copyright and courtesy of Io Makandal

Cover Photo by Nina Lieska