On the 19th of December 2018, in the Maxabene riverbed, I was humbled. Two of my greatest loves collided.
At 08:10am, Greg Pingo radios: “Is Roxy on the vehicle with you?”
Now, sitting at the base of a Jackalberry Tree quietly sharing a moment with a rare and endangered scaly mass of magic tucked safely in the trunk, thinking just how closely it resembles the artistry of one of my icons.
Silently hoping this weird and wonderful creature will rear her armoured head, I can’t help but wonder if she inspired Cubism; an art style jointly created by Picasso and Braque showcasing a reduction in detail right down to just a series of overlapping two dimensional planes and facets; radically fragmented objects. This, to me, sounds like the description of the monochromatic shield of a pangolin…
Through the adventures of growing up in the bush on a game farm in Zimbabwe, to immigrating to South Africa and then returning to the bush roughly a decade later, where I have now been for 3 years, these precious pangolins have eluded me. Greg has been lucky enough to see several. Our shared passion and appreciation (and anticipation on my behalf!) has started a small collection of ornamental lookalikes. I’ve tried sketching a few, too. But that day, I was graced with the real deal!
I am usually the worst version of myself in 42 degree heat, but sharing the same shade as this cluster of keratin, I could not contain my sheer joy. Crouching down in the sand and the foliage, I am absolutely hypnotised by the gentle rise and fall of the chapped and scratched two-dimensional diamond-shaped scales. This is a the Cape or Temminck’s Ground pangolin; one of the 4 species found in Africa, and the only one which we find in Southern Africa. There are 8 different types of these scaly specimens found throughout Africa and Asia… all of which make up the numbers for the most trafficked animal on the planet.
It amazes me how the bush is constantly reminding and reiterating the importance of appreciating something before it’s gone. Be it the golden hour of a sunset or the stillness of a sunrise. Or, in this case, the few precious minutes sharing the same space as this toothless, sticky-tongued, ant-eating, ancient animal, allowing the style of one of history’s most iconic artists and my rapture at this magical creature to collide..