- At Mahale Chimpanzees
- (scroll down for description)
2000, acrylic, 20 x 40
I first visited Africa in the 1950's at about the same time that Jane Goodall began her work with chimpanzees. Like millions of others I followed her career through the National Geographic magazine and television specials. Her life and work changed the way we see animals, especially our closest relatives, and the way we see ourselves. She brought sensitivity and compassion to the clear eye of science, therefore, my wife Birgit and I feel very fortunate that we have had several opportunities to spend time with her when she has been visiting our home area. More than once she has asked me why so few artists, more particularly Robert Bateman, have ever painted chimps. The explanation might lie in the fact that they have been so "used" as a comic object that they, through no fault of their own, have a trite and silly image. Gorillas seem not to have suffered this same fate; they have an image of power and dignity.
Before I did my chimp painting I wanted to experience them in the wild and to see their habitat. I needed an "idea", a feeling and a sense of time, place and composition. The chance came on a trip to the Mahale Mountains along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, about 200 kilometres south of Janes study area at Gombe Stream. Sadly, the Gombe area has been almost ruined by the wars around Rwanda and the Congo and the devastating impact of thousands of refugees. But the Mahale Mountains have been set aside as a park and are still in a virtually pristine state.
Although our time with the chimps was in bright sunlight, I chose a subdued green, filtered light to symbolize their forest world. Green is a spiritual colour for me and so I tried to depict this group with dignity, yet a sense of social relationship and family.