Versatile, self-taught artist

'What he does is magical"
Mwatile Kapolola is a passionate, young artist who taught himself everything there is to know about art and working with paint.
Brian Munango
Brian Munango Windhoek

Mwatile Kapolola discovered his love of art at primary school and never looked back.

Born in Keetmanshoop, he started drawing sketches of his teachers, who reimbursed him for the artwork.

“I realised this was my passion in grade four and I’ve been pursuing it ever since,” he says.

Growing up, he was exposed to a lot of travelling, because his father was a tour guide. Kapolola enjoyed travelling around the country with his dad and spent some time away from school, preferring to sketch alongside his father.

Life after school

After completing high school, he moved to Swakopmund, where he studied computer engineering at the Institute of Information Technology (IIT). After completing the course, he returned to Mariental, searching for a job. “Job hunting for close to two years became very stressful. That’s when I started investing more time into my art to try and see if I could make a living from it,” he explains.

He said small towns don’t have much to offer, so he decided to move Windhoek.

His mother, Lucia Kapolola, tried to convince him to move to the north instead, but he refused. “I know my son, and how gifted he is, so I didn’t want to stand in his way,” she says.

Kapolola taught himself everything he knows about art; he never attended classes or courses to improve his skill. Beginning with sketches, he moved on to painting on canvas, and then painting on shoes and walls.

At the start of 2019, he launched his business Exclusive Artworks and Wear (EAW). “In EAW we do everything from customising shoes, paintings, creating art on clothes and so much more,” he says.

Olavi Mandume, a client, said, “I gave him my sneakers to customise - I didn’t know what I wanted, so I told him to just do what he wants, and the work he did, it is unbelievable.”

After close to a year of sketching, he saved up enough to move into a flat in Wanaheda. In 2019, Kapolola had a long client list of people who were interested in his work. He started working with Luis Munana, and sketching comics for the Waka Waka Moo television programme. He also worked with Munana on Zuriel, by customising outfits.

Magical highlights

Kapolola made shoes for students from the University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Lukas Shilikomwenyo, who bought a few shirts made by Kapolola, said “what he does is magical, he can bring anything to life. When you watch him work it looks like he’s playing, but the end result is amazing. He is the best at what he does.”

He scored his first big deal in 2020, when he was asked by Jabu Logistics to paint their clients’ home-based shops. To date he has painted the shops of more than 200 small retailers in Windhoek.

Kapolola: “I still can’t believe I am where I am today. I can drive around Windhoek and see my work on people’s shops. It’s a great feeling,” he said.

“For me, art is a way of expressing feelings, it’s more than just a beautiful painting - it is feelings being put on canvases and I am happy I’m living my dream.”

Kapolola has also secured a deal with GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, to paint home-based stores across Namibia – a project with which he is currently busy.

He plans to grow his coming going forward.

“I want people to speak of EAW and how beautiful the work is. I am working hard towards that.”