Pablo Ruiz Picasso (born October 25, 1881, in Spain – died April 8, 1973, in France) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most-influential artists of the 20th century. Known worldwide as the creator of cubism, Picasso´s works are easily identifiable from a distance because of his personal and original style. At 10, he made his first painting, and at 15, he entered the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona. During his 75 years of career, Picasso is the author of 13,500 paintings and designs, 100,000 prints or engravings, 34,000 books’ illustrations, and 300 sculptures or ceramics. April 8, 2023, marked the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso´s death.

In this context, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Windhoek has commissioned the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (OYO) to create a special dance production.

‘The performance is not a biography of the life of Picasso’, explained Dr Philippe Talavera, choreographer. ‘It is a tribute to his work. We were inspired by several pieces such as ‘La vie’ or ‘famille de saltimbanques’ and developed section from those. Picasso is also the first one to have used collages and reused items. So, the dancers are also reusing and transforming objects, creating and then deconstructing the stage as the piece goes on.’

The soundtrack was created by renowned music composer Pondi Dikuua and features poems and texts read by Dikuua, Gregory Decroocq and Jesus Lasso Chateau. The costumes have been created by UNAM fashion designers and alumnis Isabella Fernando, Maija-Liisa Nautende, Quin-Leigh Hammond, Laimi Ndapunikwa, Laimi Ndinelao Moses, Monika Shapumba and Elizabeth Kaulu. Talavera did the choreography and the OYO dance company, led by Desmond Kamerika and Mary-Jane Andreas performed the work.

‘This was a massive production’, said Talavera ‘something that has never been seen in Namibia. It was very different to the work OYO normally does. Cubism being about deconstruction, about looking at objects and bodies from different perspective, we created something completely different.’

The show was performed on 19 October at the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN) in the morning for schools and in the evening to the general public. Feedback received by the audience in the evening was extremely good. People were both impressed and surprised. Many had not expected such a performance. And while many acknowledge they were not sure what to expect, all concluded they got more than what they had expected. Main comments include that the show was outstanding, emotional, and a piece of Arts on its own.

One of the nicest comments received was from one participant ‘I had seen images of Guernica. I have actually even seen it in Spain. However, I never really felt anything for the painting. Looking at the choreography, I could suddenly hear the screams and feel the horrors the civilians must have felt. The dance brought the painting to life for me. I will never look at this painting the same way.’ Another comment includes (still about the Guernica section) ‘you managed to create a piece of Art about THE artwork of the 20th century.’

This project was funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Namibia and it represents Namibia’s contribution to the global celebrations, in line with the Spanish and French Governments “Picasso Celebration 1973-2023”, commemorating the work of Picasso on the 50th anniversary of his passing.

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‘Lukas’ to premiere on 01 February