Wooly Rhinoceros ( Coelondonta antiquitatis)

Looking at the first human encounters with rhinoceros I found amazing evidence of Wooly Rhinoceros drawings in Chauvet Cave as well as Cave Les Combarelles.  From sites in Russia and Asia ,beautiful horns were also gathered, with  fossil species to view at London’s Natural History Museum as well as the Ice Age Museum in Moscow.  Some are well preserved due to ice and oil saturated soils.  These readings motivated the start of my exploration with naturalistic style drawings of the horn and skull – I viewed the famous prints of Albrecht Durer and Jan Wandelaar.  I learnt that habitat threats and hunting  caused the Wooly type to become extinct around 10 000 years ago. I made a visit to the Natural History Museum in Pretoria, but was disappointed with the lack of fossil species, and or anatomical studies of our White and Black Rhinoceros…..how I wished I could visit London’s Natural History Museum.

their horns are not safe in a museum

A work in progress — how I fear that National HIstory Museums would become the only place to view the Rhinoceros species.

Information that also captured my thought process was numbers on Rhinoceros in the world.  By the start of the 20th century the numbers was at  500 000 in the world; by 1970 this worldwide population dropped to 70 000.  Today it is estimated that we have around 29 000 rhinos surviving in the world.  I surfed the WWW and sites like  Oxpeckers, RHODIS,  Rhinorecourcenter, Africa Wildlife Detective, the South African Dept of Environmental Affairs, Peace Park Foundation, WWF, International Anti Poaching Foundation, Havocscope, Global Investigative Journalism, National Geographic,  AmaBhungane, Interpol and daily newspapers cover stories of poaching and criminal cases with regards to poachers

and crime syndicates, became my daily informants and documentary of the plight of the Rhinoceros which I was now starting to take as my own artistic journey.

Who have we become as a species?

Over the last few months I have become an activist in my mind: my main aim to make an impact in the fight against wild life crime. I want to disrupt this process, I want to ask the questions that reveal truth and solutions, I want to challenge views and perceptions about wildlife in our neo-liberal economies. The poached and killed rhinos, the rhino orphans are a sad story about despair and cruelty, but the trafficker as the VILLAIN who controls and push the rhino horn consumption market, must also be exposed, for they benefit financially of ‘blood money’. I hope that conscious lines in my drawings and etchings will be taken over by art which is true and will bring clarity and a possible re- balance of our environmental and social values. I believe that the world need to come to a mindset that our natural resources are very vital to the world’s existence. In art history man showed admiration the the wild animals (Chauvet cave has 60 rhino images) – the speed, power, strength and danger these animals showed are visible in Palaeolithic cave art. During antiquity, with accumulation of wealth untamed nature and powerful animals were symbols of violence, war and struggle. For example, during the Roman period, the rhinoceros was a popular animal to be place in combat with another species because of his reluctance to fight. The animal would then be prodded, became angry, and once enraged he was invincible! After Rome fell animal traders would travel the countryside with performing animals. I read about Clara, a rhinoceros from India, who travelled Europe with her ‘handler’. This encouraged sales of rhino prints and engravings, and even a hairstyle for ladies was attributed to rhinos! I was influenced by a series of prints by an British artist, William Hogarth (The Four Stages of cruelty 1751) where cruelty and torture of animals were seen as a logical progression to move from animal cruelty to humans. Our society has become either indifferent to or encouraging violent behaviour. Natural history and hunting contributed to dwindling ecosystems and loss of wildlife. In our modernity with many issues concerning animal welfare, will I find a link between the oppression of animals and disenfranchised humans? I ask myself is animal conservation becoming a moral subject, can I stay an outsider? Brent Stirton, a photojournalist, referred to looking at the intersection of man and wild animals and that we cannot indulge in practices of consumerism of wild animals that lead to wasteful and cruel practices. JJ Rouseau asks: Has the progress of the sciences and art done more to corrupt morals, or to improve them? Evidentiary Realism may bring me to engage forensic investigations of the crime committed when rhino horn is poached and sold in the illegal market of wild life criminals and consumerism. It will put ecological realities in perspective, address polarised paradigms, expose truth about corruption, greed, consumerism and inequality — it will be a learning by doing my art.