Lying awake at night I saw myself painting a huge canvas entirely black and immediately I thought how dark and depressing that would be… and dismissed the thought.
Then I remembered that some time ago I promised myself and the universe, that if I get any clear inspiration, I would trust it and follow it. So the next morning I took a 100 x 100cm canvas and started to paint it black.
It did not feel dark or depressing… it actually felt comforting, calming and very rich in its smooth deep blackness. Not at all as bad as I had imagined.
While painting I got the following insight:
Then nothing. No new idea, no insight as to how and if to proceed. I hung the canvas on the wall and waited.
Yesterday I heard the kudu softly calling me.
Paint me! Remember, we have a long and special history together…
(When I was about three or four years old, my father worked in the field and my brother and I explored the near-by hill. I was the one who spotted the kudu, very close by. It did not run away immediately, which these wild antelopes normally do. How exciting… a tame kudu!
So what do little girls do? They wanna go and cuddle and play with any nice and tame animal…
Fortunately I had my brother follow close on my heels. We were really unbelievable close to this wild animal and it did not make any signs of running. Being older and already more knowledgable about the wild, my brother noticed strings of saliva running down from the kudu’s mouth. A sure sign that the kudu had rabies and was dangerous. This also explained why the kudu seemed so tame…
Immediately he grabbed me by my arm, softly, but urgently told me to back up and run. I was not very happy about this, as I already was so close to touch this cute and majestic animal. But, fortunately big brothers can be very persistent when they are about to save your life.
So we ran. Down hill, all along a fence. Chased by a rabies infected kudu.
It is a common symptom that animals with rabies appear tame, but then also attack you… We ran for our lives.
My brother was faster and ahead of me. I realised that the kudu is getting closer and my short little legs had no chance against his (or hers). Somehow I realised that I could slip sideways through the fence and hope that the kudu will continue with his downhill chase. It worked…
But now the kudu got closer to my brother and my brother was getting close to the corner of the camp, with another fence right in front of him. He duck through the fence and at the same time the kudu lifted into the air with his powerful hind-legs to jump over the fence…
Another thing which happens with kudus who have rabies, is that they get weak. Usually they easily and gracefully jump over fences, but now they do not manage the height and get horribly tangled in the wires. Caught with its legs by the wires, this kudu came crushing down to the ground where my brother had just climbed through the fence. It fell partly onto my brother, but fortunately he could quickly get away and was not hurt.
My father, who was already alerted by my screams that something was wrong, came towards us and once he has ensured we are save, he put the poor kudu out of his/her misery.
This was a pretty unusual childhood encounter with a kudu and probably one of my very earliest, clear and lasting memories. And it made a huge impression on me… )
So yes, I do remember. Also the first time that I was asked to paint your portrait. I answered in my mind.
Ok, so will you paint me again?
Mhhh. Ok, maybe with white on black, that could look cool.
What do you think of this?
Uhh, I like it. It is pretty. But…. hey let’s be adventurous tonight, otherwise we are finished so quickly… and black and white are so… mmhh, boring? Let’s just try something crazy…
I don’t know. I am scared. You look so pretty, what if I will mess that up?
You might, but wouldn’t it be fun? And anyway… if you do mess it up, you can just paint another one like this again, can’t you? Common, let’s just be a bit wild tonight… I dare you.
Ok, I trust you. And yes, I need to remember that I can always start over again. Art, like life, lets you start over and over again, as long as you are breathing. Mistakes can happen and they do. But it is not the end of the world and often they lead to amazing new and unexpected results.
So, yes, I dare…
So this is the kudu at this stage of our dialog… I think we leave her like this. Maybe, we will rather start another adventure on a different canvas.
And till we do, I am enjoying her presence. We are having fun, like girlfriends do, giggling and enjoying the neon colours we used, her prettiness and weirdness, marveling at the world, laughing at our vulnerability, fears and constant search for the elusive perfection… And think: who cares? When we can just be pink or turquoise or whatever we feel like? We should be more adventurous and less scared of making mistakes.
fascinating animals – your picture fantastic in black and white-interesting strange the coloured
one…anyway… interesting your thoughts of struggle and doubt…..
Thank you for your comment. Kudus cows seldom get much recognition, because the males seem so much more impressive. But they are all beautiful and interesting. And somehow I am so much attracted to the energy of the female kudus.
This is one of the best things I’ve read for a long time. Your fears, the whispers of your doubt, and leaving a painting in fear of ‘messing it up’ if I carry on… I identify with all of it! And you had me on the edge of my chair with the story of the kudu with rabies. 🙂
Ps: Incidentally I’m bringing quite a bit of black into my current body of work, for an exhibition showing in April.
Awww, thank you Janet – what a compliment. And yes, I guess all artists know these fears. I am looking forward to seeing your latest work!
I had to look up what a Kudu is and what rabies means – but now I know. A horrid advanture and a fascinating reprocessing. In Stone Age people painted buffaloes to overcome their fear of them
and develop a better attitude for killing them. If they would have been able to paint the buffaloes as beautiful as you painted the kudu, they surely would have become vegetarians!
Haha – yes, when one sees animals like this and looks into their eyes, it gets difficult to kill them. I have read that apparently if San hunters went for a hunt, they believed that the day before no woman was allowed close by, because even if only the shadow of a woman would fall on any of the hunting equipment or water bag, the feminine spirit would connect with the animals and warn them…
Strangely my childhood experience never felt terrible to me, just impressive on so many ways: that I was so close to actually touching a kudu, and that something that special could turn out to be dangerous. And also the fact that kudus are gentle antelopes from which nobody expects any real danger… and yet our encounter could have been fatal in a real tragic way. But it was not – fortunately. 🙂
Personally I’ve always loved black as it often makes other colors “pop”. My attire is usually black with a bright scarf or vest, some bright color to really stand out against the black. Makes a dramatic look but also easy wardrobe since everything goes with black!
I’m amazed at how often people think black is depressing or bleak and fear either wearing it or using it too much because they don’t want to be “dark”. Maybe it’s because I’m depressive by nature, I don’t know, but I’ve always loved black and embrace the color, the mood and the darkness. I’m most creative at night and have always been a night owl, even as a baby. My mother would find me entertaining myself in my crib in the wee hours of the night and sleep late into the morning. She never complained, I was quite during the night and slept all day! For me, it was normal, I only cried (still do) when I have to get up early. Haha!
As for the Kudu.. scary story, no wonder it has stayed with you all these years. She is beautiful though in all her incarnations. If I ever actually see a Kudu in life I will forever think of them as “she” since you always describe her as “she” 🙂
Yes, it is strange that we often have such negative connotations with the colour black. I loved reading up on its symbolism, which helped me to understand it much more and therefor like it much better. For this canavs I just felt an even stronger resistance, because we are going through a stressful time as a family and I thought I have to create something uplifting and ‘light’ to counter the emotional state… – but sometimes we have to bravely accept the less happy feelings too and be present to them. …
And just like you, I enjoy wearing black. It makes me feel save somehow and calm. And yes, also like to add a dash of bright colour.
Usually when people think of kudus, they think of the male, because that is how they are mostly depicted. The males have the most impressive, huge horns, which twist like a corkscrew. Strangely, from my first kudu portrait on it was clear to me that I am called to present and celebrate the female energy of the kudu cow, which is so much different than the male and seldom given much attention.