Tag Archives: earth

Encounters in the Namib

A bird puzzled by my artwork in the desert © Imke Rust

A bird puzzled by my artwork in the desert © Imke Rust (detailed view)

I have spent eight days in the beginning of April in the desert around the coastal town of Swakopmund to make artworks in nature. It is my way to raise awareness about the threats which our environment is facing. And it is my way of taking action. I believe that art is not only an aesthetic experience, but also a powerful and spiritual one. Just like the shamans and healers of the olden days have used drawings, symbols, rituals and objects to heal and change the vibrations of the current reality, I hope that my art can have a positive and healing influence.

The Namib Desert at the Atlantic coast in Namibia is currently under much threat, with uranium mines springing up and growing like fungi, huge chemical plants proposed to be built (who plan to get rid of their toxic waste in the Atlantic ocean) and even Phosphor mining plans on our shores. Not only these big obvious projects are threatening the desert and ocean, but also the thousands of people who mindlessly use the environment as their playground without consideration or awareness of the damage they are doing.

I am happy that more and more people are standing up and making their voices heard for saving our environment and there even being signs and actions from our government which gives us hope that they are not going to sell out our desert. I thought a lot about what I can do for my part, and decided that I stick to what I do best: art. Instead of painting posters against the ‘enemy’ I decided to do things pro nature, make artworks which symbolically protect the land from harm, bless it and celebrate its beauty, while at the same time raising awareness about the threats.

I am busy preparing the documentation of the works for my upcoming exhibition in June in Berlin and want to keep the artworks a surprise till then. Instead I will share with you pictures of some of the meetings we had during the eight days, in which we worked in the desert. Just to show you how alive the desert really is with creatures we often do not even notice. All of these and many, many more depend on our choices for their survival. And our own survival depends on a healthy and alive environment.

Horned Viper taking refuge in a shaded burrow

Horned Viper taking refuge in a shaded burrow

Although I have much time of my life in the desert, it is the first time that I personally spotted this highly poisonous small snake. A good reminder for me to tread carefully for my own protection and on the other hand I felt sadness, as she was living in an area where sand is mined and I guess it is only a matter of time, before she ends up being killed by the huge machines.

A  well camouflaged desert gecko

A well camouflaged desert gecko

Another gecko, not as fussed with camouflaging

Another gecko, not as fussed with camouflaging

A lizard who has lost its tail

A lizard who has lost its tail

A very friendly and inquisitive pregnant chameleon

A very friendly and inquisitive pregnant chameleon

A desert rabbit, sitting very still, in the hope that we do not see it...

A desert rabbit, sitting very still, in the hope that we do not see it…

A black scorpion

A black scorpion – very poisonous (you can tell from the large stingers and small fangs)

These are only some of the animals which we encountered while working in the desert, as I did not always have my camera ready….  I was so amazed to notice just how alive the desert really is.

Oh, and then while marveling at the horned viper, we also encountered some very noisy two-wheeled creatures:

Motorcycles and plastic bags in the desert

Motorcycles and plastic bags in the desert

I wonder how many of our small new friends they noticed? And how many of them survived the encounter?

If this matter is also close to your heart and you would like to show your support for the environment of the Namib Desert, especially around Swakopmund, please join the Facebook group Industrial Swakopmund – What Future do we Want?” and stay updated about the latest news and actions.

The art project was funded, in part, through a Grant by the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN),  the opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the NACN.LOGO NACN

Tokoloshe Trap (or How to Catch Creatures of the Night)

(Update 21 March 2013: To see pictures and a description of the final artwork, please click here.)

I am hard at work preparing for a land art project which I am planning to do at the coast soon, and have been spending much time finding and cutting white thorns. These long, straight, white thorns, growing in pairs at an about 90degree angle to each other, are something I typically relate with Namibia. Different kinds of trees and bushes grow them and they look stunning, but are also really painful if you step into one.


I plan to use many (as in thousands) of these thorns, so I have been spending my past few days cutting these thorns off their branches. To get a break from this tedious task, I decided to arrange some of the cut thorns in my garden to see what it looks like. I decided on a simple circle shape. And this is what it looked like.

thorn circle

Cat & thorn circle

My cat is in the second picture, since she took great interest in my arranging the thorns and continuously interfered, thinking it is great to bite the thorns, rub her chin on them or walk straight through them. All of which was not very helpful and after I have pushed her away too often, she gave me the cold shoulder. (This picture also serves to give you an idea of the size of the thorns, and these one’s are medium-sized!)

Since it was late in the afternoon, I decided to leave the thorns in the garden and wait till the morning to get some of the morning sun for some extra pictures. When I came back to it early in the morning, I realized that some animal walked into the thorns. The circle was damaged and it was surrounded with tracks.

damaged thorn circle

Scratch marks next to thorn circle Spoor next to thorn circle

First I thought it might have been my cat, but the strangest thing is that judging by the size of the scratch marks and spoors, the animal must have been huge, something like a big dog. I know that a mongoose often comes to visit at night and stalk around my compost heap, but other than that, there is no large enough entry into my yard, for anything bigger than a cat. Unless it can fly…

Festus, who sometimes helps me in the garden and whom I called to ask if he could identify the spoor, was not sure what it could be either. But for some reason he thought it might be the perfect time to ask me what the word “Tokoloshe” means.

Wikipedia describes it as follows:

“In Zulu mythology, Tikoloshe, Tokoloshe or Hili (from the Xhosa word utyreeci ukujamaal) is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by swallowing a pebble. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.”

So, maybe it was a Tokoloshe?

Hmm, I am still puzzled by what it could have been, but at least I know one thing for sure: whatever it was, it stepped right into the thorns and will surely remember the pain and not come back soon.

And if I ever should need an additional income to my art, maybe I can patent this as a form of Tokoloshe Trap and catch some evil spirits roaming the land. 🙂

Detail Tokoloshe Trap

Detail Tokoloshe Trap