4. Baboon

30 x 20.5cm, silk and cotton embroidery thread on calico, acryllic paint

Baboons hold infinite measures of wildness. In contrast, humans persist at leveling, containing and controlling all of life. Baboons are the most wild and audacious of all creatures, constantly and unapologetically provoking the ire of humans who camp on their territory. Humans conveniently forget that they are intrusive in a wild utopia which they have and will continue to destroy. It is ironic that this destruction is often projected onto the baboons and other wild animals.

This work is about the baboon as shaman, the interlocutor, the joker in the king’s temple, able to tell the king what he doesn’t want to hear or see. This work has the baboon confronting the viewer. She sits within the utopian landscape that is the one in which I live. It is the place where I have retreated to and live in, in order that I may re-calibrate my inner and outer worlds. The wildness that I experience within the contemporary South African urban landscape is the chaotic counterfoil to the wildness that is managed and kept in balance within the ecosystem of the canyon I live in. Somehow, somewhere, a solution needs to be found that brings these two inevitable yet colliding universes into harmony.

For now, the steady gaze of the female baboon confronts the viewer directly to experience the majesty of the natural landscape that she so tenuously manages and protects. The subtext would be to confront us with the chaos of our own imperious power to destroy the utopia that we have been blessed with. The viewer sits within their own urban framework looking into the framework of the natural universe of the baboon. These complex questions are for the viewer to answer. It is the discourse that I currently live with and grapple with.  The baboon is my bridge into this complex conversation.

I initially lived with baboons when I worked at the lion conservancy upon my return from voluntary exile in Australia. Initially they had been quite unobtrusive until I had decided to move on. I was conflicted and did not know how to do this. The turning point was when they started pulling the thatch out of the hut I lived in, thus destroying the protection of my contained unit of safety. There was a hole in the roof and I could see the blue sky. I was told that baboons are the shamans of the animal world and I imagined that they were communicating with me that it was time for me to move on.

This move placed me in the riverine forest in the third largest canyon in the world, to live beneath a pyramid mountain. The troop of baboons that co-habit became my daily companions. This work honours and acknowledges this intimate and meaningful companionship.

I am desperate

but promise to be wild

but promise to stay wild

beneath my own crust