From Welwitschias rugby prospect to visual artist
By Chamwe Kaira
Freelancer. [email protected].
When B2Gold Namibia invited me to an art exhibition at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre in Windhoek, showcasing artwork by 33 year old visual artist born in Opuwo in the Kunene Region, I had no idea that the artist had a rugby side to his life story.
Kapena Joe, who grew up in Himba society has all the physical attributes of a typical rugby player, tall and strongly built. I interviewed Joe after the exhibition about his rugby and visual arts talent.
Joe says he was such a promising rugby prospect and was even called to the Namibian rugby national team, the Welwitschias in preparation for the 2008 World Cup held in Australia that year.
Then something happened which changed the course of his life. Joe says it was during the preparations with the Welwitschias and in a game against the Baby Boks in Stellenbosch that he was just a hard hit on his head.
“Thank God it wasn’t serious, they rushed me to hospital and the doctor said son you must be lucky a one. It is just a hard hit to your head.”
Although the injury turned out not to be serious, Joe says at this point he lost interest in the game. “The injury did not end my rugby career. I just did not enjoy the game anymore and I knew it was time to walk away.”
“I ended up quitting rugby just before the World Cup and I never got international caps for Namibia. I just did not enjoy rugby anymore and I knew it was time to change.”
Joe started playing rugby at Grootfontein Secondary School while he was in Grade 9. He credits the school’s rugby coach at that time, Henk Botha for discovering him and giving him the chance to express his rugby talent.
In South Africa, Joe played at the Blue Bulls in Pretoria for two years and then moved to Tuks (University of Pretoria) and later to TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) for the Varsity Cup.
At the end of 2019, Joe made the decision to go back to his first love, drawing and decided to become a fulltime artist this year.
Joe’s art career took a positive turn early this year when he met by chance, Mark Dawe, Managing Director and Country Manager of B2Gold at a mall in Windhoek, which resulted in B2Gold sponsoring his artwork.
“I met Mark at the Grove Mall, I would go do live drawings in the Grove mall on Saturdays and that specific Saturday, I did not feel the need to go to the mall, I was not feeling well. Something said to me, you have got to go to the mall and so I ended up going and that’s how I ended up meeting Mark.”
Joe says B2Gold sponsorship has laid the necessary foundation that he needed to jump start his career and gave him an identity, not only financially but the platform to express his artistic talent.
Joe has always loved drawing since he was six years old. But he says he pushed aside art aside for almost 14 years to pursue his rugby dream.
Joe draws with pencil and charcoal on paper, telling Namibian stories.
“I like to see myself as the person between the mirror and reality. I live to tell peoples stories, bring their hard felt pains and experiences in this arena called life to the light.”
Joe has no regrets about walking away from rugby, which would have shot him to fame like other players in Namibia and South Africa. He quotes the Bible in the book of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Despite not having regrets about quitting rugby, Joe says some of his former teammates in South Africa have gone on to become World Cup winning players with the Springboks.
Kapena Joe (left) at the recent exhibition of his artwork in Windhoek. The event attracted a lot of art enthusiasts. Photo: B2Gold Namibia