In Daniel Naudé's first solo show, he presents a world that appears to be a fairy tale, or a fictional place: We see a donkey with the grace of a race horse. Next to an impossibly beautiful rainbow, a white mule almost turns into a unicorn. The hills and veld that Naudé invites us to traverse are filled with wonderful creatures, each more proud, perfect, and present than the next.
But small details in the photographs reveal that Naudé's world is, in fact, our own. The donkey is tied by its leg. The Nguni bull pees. The unicorn-like mule wears red rope a wire collar. Humans view other species largely in utilitarian terms. Some animals, like the cows and the donkey, we rely on for sustenance, or labour. Others, like the tricolour Nguni cow and the perfectly symmetrically patterned goat, are prized for their appearance. Others still, like the feral dogs that first captured Naude's attention, live largely parallel existences to their human neighbours (though some are used to hunt). In Naudé's essay, however, each animal is treated as an end in itself. The donkey is as important as the prize Nguni.
Naudé reveals a sense of awe and reverence for nature that has eroded, or at least been reduced to a recreational activity, in our urban existences. To create a sense of hightened perception, he relentlessly pulls his images apart and puts them back together in a digital process until, in his words, he 'sees on his screen what he saw out there.'
The title of the exhibition is taken from an early 19th century folio African scenery and animals by Samuel Daniell, who arrived in the Cape in December 1799 at the age of twenty-five, and was appointed as the secretary and draughtsman for an expedition to Bechuanaland. In his Enlightenment approach to the natural world, two distinct and at times conflicting impulses were at work. As the result of the period's revolt against (religious) hierarchy, superstition, and other unscientific belief systems, nature had to be indexed, studied and understood. On the other hand, colonial projects revealed entire worlds, giving rise to an almost religious a sense of wonder about the new.
Naudé's scenery, however, is distinct from Daniell's in its embrace of the complexities of Africa. While bred in its present day form by American Indians, the horse in the series was brought to North America in 1700 by Europeans; it was introduced in South Africa because of its ability to thrive on rough terrain. The Nguni cattle is native to Southern Africa, while the Africanis dogs is said to have migrated down from Egypt, adapting to difference circumstances and cross-breeding along the way. (Interestingly, while Nguni cattle is now considered among the most beautiful livestock in the world, the previous South African regime considered it practically worthless.)
A sheep's carcass in an empty field serves as a momento mori and full stop at the end of Naudé's essay. The image suggests that it is precisely our mortality, and the fleeting nature of human and animal existence that binds us together.
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