Speaking at the launch of the ik-stingkt exhibition at the Ron Belling Art Gallery today, conservationist icon Dr Ian Player, made a stiring and impassioned plea to save the Rhino.
So stirring in fact that I for once was rendered immobile and still as I slaked my wild thirst on his words.
Player’s famous words distil his message; “It is only through a global campaign and political will that we can save this remnant of the dinosaur age”, “We’ve lost that sacred connection with the earth”, “We all evolved from Africa”, “….Africa this very ancient continent from which we have all evolved, which I call the landscape of the human soul.”
“This artwork shows how we can oppose the evil of poaching through the good of our children. We all need to stand together to overcome this scourge,” said Player as he marveled at the art work of the school children and acknowledged that at a similar age he could only draw stick figures.
Reflecting on a career in conservation spanning more than 60 years, Player reminded us that it is only because of the White Rhino that South Africa has a vast number of conservation areas and game farms. Player recalls his efforts at White Rhino conservation bearing fruit to such an extent that he would transport 20 South African rhino at a time to game farms in the United States and Europe.
Only after much debate in 1968 was the ban on White Rhino hunting lifted – this made farmers realise that conservation was a profitable business. Player explained that the money from hunting one rhino would be plowed back into buying more land and animals. In 2013 the private sector contributes approximately 2.2 million hectares of land towards rhino conservation, with more than 4 000 rhino in private ownership.
Sport hunting of white rhino started in 1968 at a time there were only 1 800 animals and has continued with an average of approximately 50 animals hunted per year ever since. Traditionally, white rhino trophy hunts have been sold primarily to international hunting clients from the United States and Europe. The total turnover value of each hunt has been variously estimated at in the region of R250 000.00 per rhino.
In the period 2009 to 2012 the Department of Environmental Affairs received 111, 166, 222 and 91 applications respectively to hunt white rhino – a total of 590 applications.
In March 2013 the Department of Environmental Affairs reported that South Africa had 20 711 Rhino – 18 796 White Rhino and 1 915 Black Rhino.
Believing that he had done enough for conservation Dr Player retired only to have an old friend (a baby white rhino) revisit him in a dream, climb onto his bed and lay it’s head on his shoulder. Player knew then that the time had come for him to return and remind the world that the return of the poachers, represented ‘evil personified’ and the eradication of the rhino would lead to the decimation of the ‘landscape of the human soul’.
The Ik-stingkt exhibition aims to raise awareness and funds for the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative through a partnership between the Wilderness Foundation and the Ron Belling Art Gallery, proudly sponsored by Coca-Cola Sabco and Investec.
The exhibition will take place in two parts. The first is in line with World Environment Day on 5 June 2013, where artwork from primary school youth will be showcased. The second phase will take place in September with the gallery’s Spring School of Art for high-school learners, culminating in the Ik-stingkt exhibition showing in November.
Throughout history, nature has permeated the creative arts. It inspired Stone Age hunters to immortalise their expeditions on rock. Ancient Egyptians built elaborate temples to animal-headed gods. In the middle ages, mythical beasts adorned valuable manuscripts. In the 17th century, paintings were dominated by hunting scenes, while 18th century artists revelled in the beauty of natural habitats.
Recognising the impact of nature on every aspect of the art world, Ik-stingkt is a conscious collaboration between Conservation and Creativity in an effort to help save one of our country’s most symbolic natural heritage icons – the rhino.
According to world renowned conservationist Dr Ian Player, this “remnant of the dinosaur age” will be wiped out within the next decade if the poaching crisis is not addressed through a collaborative, national and international rescue campaign. Dr Player also pointed out that if it weren’t for the drive to preserve rhinos in the 1950’s, there wouldn’t be any national parks in South Africa. “It is because of the white rhino that we have our national parks where tourists can learn about the soul of Africa. Nature is in our souls.”
Through an educational outreach initiative, Ik-stingkt has helped to showcase the voice of the youth on the poaching crisis. Artwork produced by students at local government schools is displayed at the Ik-stingkt exhibition together with pieces by acclaimed Cape Town artist, Nix Davies.
Scholars throughout Nelson Mandela Bay have been invited to take part in this unique collaborative exhibition merging Conservation and Creativity, and to take a stand against a crisis that could see the disappearance of this iconic African species.
The first phase of the exhibition is registered as a fringe event on the Grahamstown National Arts Festival calendar, and will run from June 27-July 07, 2013.