The magic of Mukwendje’s brush

Hage Mukwendje

“I’m writing a book in a very different way,” says Hage Mukwendje about his brand of art in the recently produced documentary about his life and work.

The documentary, titled ‘Healing Roots’, is an 11-minute film chronicling the artist’s journey from the village Okalongo in the north to his current life as a full-time painter and one of the country’s most sought-after artists.

That is not at all an exaggeration. Mukwendje’s instantly recognisable work hangs on the walls of some of the most prominent people and buildings. He has exhibited countless times in Namibia and elsewhere.

“I never expected I would sell a painting for N$900 or N$2 000. It is a very good feeling,” he says.

Some of Mukwendje’s portraits sell for even more than N$50 000.

‘Healing Roots’ was shot and produced by the German duo behind Loft Arts, Niklas von Klitzing and Leo Stolz.

In a statement, they describe Mukwendje as a beacon of Namibian art.

In an interview, Klitzing tells us the project aims to encourage an appreciation of the diverse ways in which art influences daily life and personal identity.

“We hope to inspire viewers to reflect on how art shapes and reflects their own culture and identity,” he says.

Throughout the film, you are struck by Mukwendje’s storytelling and the vivid depiction of Namibian life and art.

In it he joyfully speaks of his upbringing at a small Namibian village and how he felt privileged since they had everything they needed and weren’t exposed to too many things.

This also meant they needed to be extra creative to entertain themselves.

“I never thought I’d become a professional artist,” he says.

As scenes of classrooms flash on the screen, Mukwendje reminisces about growing up feeling the pressure to become something big like an engineer or teacher, and how he always wanted to be an architect, but didn’t really enjoy being in school since drawing took up a lot of his attention.


He then shares his transition to Windhoek – “the big city” – after high school and how much of a challenge it was to learn to speak English and stay out of trouble.

“Sometimes you look back and say you’ve survived a lot of things,” he says, noting how many of his peers became consumed by drugs, alcohol, poverty and the cost of living.

These are also themes usually present in his work.

As the film continues, Mukwendje shares how he loves to translate real and raw experiences onto his canvas.

He is known for his minimalist approach to drawing highly expressive faces, using multiple media.

The artist is colour-blind, but still uses colours vibrantly.

“Art is therapy to me. Afterwards I feel so good. Every time I paint, it’s like a drug, and I’m revealing so many energies. If I am in an argument, I am angry or if things are not going well, I would end up drawing on your table.

“I would end up creating something, and then it just flows and I forget about the past. To me it happens like magic.”

The team says Mukwendje’s journey into art was fuelled by “a desire to express the nuanced experiences of his community and himself”.

Von Klitzing and Stolz wanted to explore the artist’s “unique artistic process and his quest to define what it means to be African, Namibian and Owambo in a world where art and identity are inextricably linked”.

It’s also a pleasure to see how the crew incorporated not only local music (and stellar sound design), but also Von Klitzing’s father’s archival footage, showing how much Namibia has changed and stayed the same over the years.


Though both Loft Arts filmmakers are based in Germany, Von Klitzing spent some time in his youth in Namibia visiting relatives, sparking his love for Namibian art.

Having known Mukwendje through mutual friends for some time, Von Klitzing says he has always been interested in documenting his “unique artistic vision”.

Production on ‘Healing Roots’ began in 2021, after Mukwendje performed at a live painting session in Germany, which the duo captured on film. This then progressed to a trip to Namibia in 2022, where they continued to film the artist as he split his time between his home in the north and his studio in Windhoek.

“We didn’t discuss much about how the documentary would unfold,” says Von Klitzing. “Hage just trusted our creative instincts. Our goal was to authentically document his journey and the vibrant cultural context of Namibia. It was truly inspiring to see how Hage’s art reflects his personal and cultural identity.”

The documentary was completed earlier this year, and shows Mukwendje in his natural environment, with friends and family and even a few words of wisdom from musician Samuele Ngodji (formerly Qonja).


It is clear through this viewing that Mukwendje’s art is a huge part of his identity, and vice versa. His dream is to plough back into his village and where he came from, with a youth opportunity centre that would empower and inspire others like him to grow their talents.

The Loft Arts team says amazing feedback has been received since they started submitting their featurette to festivals in March.

This includes winning an award at the Berlin Indie International Film Festival. The documentary has also been selected to be screened at the Berlin Commercial and Los Angeles IndieX Film Fests.

Beyond opening his opportunity centre back home, Mukwendje is interested in ploughing back at a grassroots level, he says.

He plans to use his reach to foster learning in multiple areas, including different sport codes and agricultural training for adults.

Mukwendje says he would like to see people returning to a time before social media.

“When I was a child, we used to do a lot of things […] What I picked up is that a lot of young people are led to the streets because they have nothing to do,” he says.

‘Healing Roots’ has not yet been released to the public, but the team hopes to have a public screening in Namibia at the end of June and then publish it online.

This week Mukwendje will be attending Art Basel in Switzerland and will be doing an art tour through Europe.

For more, follow Von Klitzing, Stolz and Mukwendje online.

– Anne Hambuda is a writer, social commentator and poet. Follow her online or email her for more.

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