Namibia—it often makes international news for its landscape. For instance, Dutch photographer Frans Lanting capturing some surreal moments in the desert for National Geographic some years ago. Local artist Paul Kiddo explores the natural side of this beautiful country—we find springbok and hartebeest, grass and sands in his work. But he also gives us glimpses of Namibia’s contemporary society and multi-cultural history.
Born in 1949 in the village of Bethanie in the southern part of the nation, Paul Kiddo grew up in an environment that would one day form the inspiration for much of his work. At the age of fourteen, Kiddo started experimenting and exploring with paint. It was only in his thirties that the artist started to paint in earnest.
Many of his paintings are based on narrative and touch on sociological issues. He brings subtlety and sometimes humour to these scenes in order to paint a complex portrait of Namibia—its past and present—in the process, referring to colonial, tourist and outsider perspectives.
Some artworks such as “Friedriecherkirchen near Alexanderplatz” and “From New Angle No. 1 Kolmannskuppe Ghost Town” speak of German influence, showing a church and a deserted place, respectively. Namibia was part of “German South West Africa” from 1884 to 1915. Unfortunately, this period saw the first genocide of the twentieth century—occuring between 1904 and 1908—waged by the German Empire on the native Herero, Nama and San peoples who had rebelled against the imperial hold.
Moving beyond history, other images of Kiddo’s depict a simple, charming village life—with men and women and children, moments of leisure and trade, dogs and horses, all against a mountainous backdrop. The atmosphere is relaxed yet purposeful, uncorrupted by the often joyless urgency of modern industry and a corporate existence.
Paul Kiddo is represented by StArt Art Gallery in Windhoek, founded by Helen Harris and Gina Figueira. In 2017, he was awarded the Bank Windhoek Triennale Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Kiddo’s work is held in many notable collections around the world including that of the NAGN, NAA and the Würth collection in Germany. The artist has exhibited extensively, mostly recently at a solo exhibtion at the NAGN in 2017. As he gets older and his health declines, he exhibits and paints less frequently.
Links: StArt Art Gallery page (www.startartgallery.com/paul-kiddo)