by Masiyaleti Mbewe
Strands of dreadlocks bunch up into the well-groomed knot of a bun, his striking features, dark skin and famously grungy clothes are all tied together by the aura of purpose. One couldn’t miss the 27-year-old activist, filmmaker and street photographer Vilho Nuuyoma Nuumbala even if one tried. Insanely soft-spoken and fiercely bound to his path, Vilho makes work that speaks for itself. His still images of life in the developing labyrinth of Namibia are aesthetically bold and edgy. Behind the seemingly simple moniker “Defeat Hate” is the story of Vilho’s attempt at some sort of liberation through his visual art. “I’m from a broken home so I wanted to do something creative, something that would take all this negativity around me and turn it into something beautiful and memorable.” The long road to credibility as a black photographer hasn’t been easy. “There is always someone who is not necessarily better but has a degree and better equipment and is European, so more likely than not he is going to get the job over someone like me.” There is a political glaze to his work, a refreshingly new perspective on the idea of alternative culture and diversity in the land of his birth. “Maybe we could think past colours for once,” he says, “And just realise that we are human beings. I don’t believe in shooting people with guns because they are different, so I use my camera to capture that instead.” Vilho’s opinionated nature is largely appreciated by the art community in Windhoek. Understanding his stance on good art and photography is simple. It’s less technical and is more focused on the honest intentions of heart and passion, “There’s a difference between art that is taught and art that comes from an honest place. It’s not about the money for me entirely. I want to convey the message that love exists. If you dig deeper you can see it.” For fans of the artist, his exhibition at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) that ran from April the 7th till May 8th came painfully anticipated. It was a chance to catch a glimpse of the mind warping brilliance of some of his rarely seen, more candid photographs. “I tend to save some of my more meaningful pictures for stuff like this. Facebook has a weird culture, it’s about being cute. I’m glad I have this platform to showcase people I think are out of the ordinary and interesting. That way my message about tolerance and acceptance can shine through.” The man is an enigma and even though his “punk” exterior might throw a few people off, there is no doubting his abilities. It’s all about love and acceptance, and these are sentiments that should be anything but alternative.