I was invited by ‘The Rhino Pages’ to do a painting of a rhino to raise awareness of the out of control and indiscriminate slaughter of rhino worldwide which has reached epidemic proportions. If we do not unite to bring a stop to this carnage then we will most definitely witness the extinction of rhino in our lifetime. As an artist this project was one way I felt I could could help. Although my contribution seems minuscule in the scheme of things I hope that it will have a ripple effect and get the word out there.
When I was asked to participate in this project I felt pretty daunted and challenged but was determined to give it my best shot.
The week before I left for South Africa I wanted to do a preliminary piece to get my head around how I wanted to approach this painting. I started by mixing red paint which just seemed right and began pouring. Before I knew it the painting started to reveal to me the direction in which I was to follow. It was as though the Rhino spirit was guiding me and the painting just materialized. The next thing I knew my rhino was crying tears of blood. When my husband walked into the studio he stopped, paused and at first I thought it was awful. “Is it too confrontational” I asked and he replied that he thought that it was, that he felt it was a good concept and would create emotion in the viewer. I decided to leave it at that. However I now had a completed painting so that raised the question of what would I paint when in South Africa?
When I arrived in Durban, South Africa I firstly went to a town called Empangeni situated close to Richards Bay. I decided to send out an email to all the conservation and rhino groups in the area to let them know what we were doing and what we wanted to achieve. I received a response almost immediately from WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) who offered to assist. They invited me to participate on their stand at the upcoming Sunday Tribune Garden Show to be held the following week at the Royal Show Grounds in Pietermaritzburg. I gratefully accepted and the wheels were set in motion.
I traveled 165klm back to Durban and started hunting down the materials needed at various art shops. It was pretty confusing as none of the art materials were the same as in Australia. I had to purchase everything I needed to start preparing the canvas as soon as possible. The pressure was on as the show was scheduled for the next weekend. I couldn’t find a stretched canvas in the size I wanted so ended up buying unstretched canvas.
I wanted to get started asap so I would be fully prepared for the 21st September which coincidentally was also “World Rhino Day”. The next problem was, to find a venue to prepare my canvas and how would I approach this piece? I couldn’t do the same painting again, besides I didn’t even want to try. How could I possibly repeat something that was so spontaneous and relevant? Then it came to me and “Freedom of the rhino” – show me the way was born.
The next problem was to find a venue to paint? I wanted to do a large canvas to give the animal the majesty it deserved and needed ample space to do this. Luckily Rob Austin of the Rhino Pages approached Austin Panel & Paint who offered me their board room! So on the Monday morning off I trotted, canvas in hand and a cardboard box full of art equipment. I didn’t have an easel to work on so the boss gave me permission to attach the canvas to the wall and off I went and managed to get ready for the following weekend.
We had to deliver ‘Tears of the Rhino” to the showgrounds by Wednesday in time for the judging which was to take place the following day. Late Thursday afternoon I received a text message to say the stand had won gold, the only one awarded in that category. We were delighted.
The show opened on Friday and I received a message to say that the ‘Tears of the rhino’ had received a lot of attention with two definite responses. Apparently people either burst into tears and walked on or they stopped and really engaged with the painting.
Well Saturday came by very quickly and we set off early in the morning for a 73 kms journey from Amamzimtoti to Pietermaritzburg. Just as we were heading out of the Westville area we hit a massive traffic jam (very common in SA). A huge truck had collided through the barrier from one side of the freeway, crashed through the barrier and overturned on the other side. It was a mess and took more than half an hour to pass. This did not bode well for my nerves as I started stressing. Then just as we were getting close to Pietermaritzburg we hit road works (another common problem in SA). By now I resigned myself to the fact that we would be late! This is South Africa.
When we finally arrived at the gate of the showgrounds they refused to let us in to unload and we had to park across the road in the allocated parking area which by now was pretty full. This was proving to be a challenging day. We started unloading and carting everything into the showgrounds and onto the WESSA stand. I had purchased a piece of masonite to attach the canvas to, to give me the support I needed and I used a modified aluminium ladder as an easel and I was finally set.
The response was immediate and for two days people stopped and engaged and the passion for the rhino was totally evident. Many people took photos and asked for more information about ‘The Rhino Pages’. It was the most incredible experience.
‘Tears of the rhino” – hear my voice represents the profound sadness and desperation of the present situation and “Freedom of the rhino “- show me the way the possible outcome if we were to stand together and succeed in wiping out this madness.
If you wish to find out more about the project please visit http://www.therhinopages.com and you can find them on facebook as well at ‘The Rhino Pages’ and you can view my paintings on Paula Wiegmink on facebook.
I sincerely hope that you will like the pages and share as much as you can. The situation with the rhino is desperate and has reached epidemic proportions of unnecessary slaughter. The rhino need you to be their voice and spread the word.
Until my next installment I leave you with this quote:
The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable – Robert Henri 1865 – 1929