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In Memory of Paul Kiddo

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

In memory of this great Namibian painter Paul Kiddo(29 January - 5 April 2021) we repost this article from 2019. May your gentle soul rest in peace.

Paul Kiddo – Depicting the naïve realism of everyday life

A group of flirtatious young women stand around in a corner, trying to attract the attention of the men seated at the bar. In another spot, a widow sits by herself reminiscing about her late husband, while yet another sells oranges at a makeshift stand and a bit further away a young couple share a loving embrace. The setting is Okahandja Park Shebeen and the scene depicts a colourful glimpse of life in the informal settlement of Katutura.

Painted by the hand of Namibia’s world famous creator of naïve art, it portrays a picture of almost childlike simplicity and innocence, livened up through the fine detail and bold colours that personifies the work of Paul Kiddo.

Kiddo is a seventy-year-old artist who hails from the small missionary settlement of Bethanie in southern Namibia. While his journey of creativity started as a painter of houses, having grown up with a deep admiration for nature, he admits, “there was always this something in my heart – the miracle of the natural world – that inspired me to depict my inner feelings with a brush on canvas.” In 1979 he started experimenting with leftover paint from his contracting jobs, but with no previous or formal artistic experience, he still remembers the initial criticism as he does his very first painting – a natural scene of the bush, with a small water puddle. Five years later, in 1984, Kiddo permanently lay down his large brushes and rollers, switched to the finer variety and started dedicating his life to art.

“I’m a son of the farm, of nature. I grew up around the Swartrand Mountains and as a child I often had to walk long and far, following the goats through the veld. I was fascinated by the simple things that surrounded me, like a water puddle or stream, and all the trees and stones. When I looked at these natural sights, it moved me – the silence of the South speaks to your soul and it’s in those moments where we notice the greatness of God’s Hand.”

Many years later, it would be the memory of his youth in the bush that served as inspiration to create art. Scenes of the natural world, wildlife, and those depicting the arid desert landscapes of Namibia are still his favourite subject matter.

Despite minor setbacks, Kiddo has never stopped living his dream and now more than ever, works countless hours to produce the naïve, but lively depictions of life that he is known for. Although he holds numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Bank Windhoek Triennial for his contribution to arts in Namibia; 6th place at the 2014 American Art Awards, representing Namibia as one of 51 countries; and has his work is represented in various collections in Namibia, Europe, Australia and the USA; his wish remains to receive more exposure.

While a lack of funding does not allow him to travel too often to promote his art, he recently started inviting visitors into his home studio, a modest room at the back of a friend’s yard. The road to his creative space leads through the lively streets of the same informal settlement on the edge of Windhoek where you’ll find Okahandja Park Shebeen. Here, he not only paints his world famous acrylic pieces, but also house a small framing shop, cooks, sleeps and watches television. In his humble abode, Kiddo welcomes visitors with open arms and an invitation to experience “where magic and life happens”.

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