Lisl Barry, fine artist based in Oudtshoorn, Klein Karoo, Western Cape - South Africa Lisl Barry, artist and author based in Oudtshoorn, Klein Karoo, Western Cape - South Africa
 Exhibition notes : 

Group exhibition KKNK 2016 _ Legends of the Karoo


The theme for a group Art Karoo gallery exhibition,

as part of the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees,

was 'Legends of the Karoo', where local artists were

invited to interpret the rich local folklore from the area.

The Eland

For the Khoisan, animals mean much more than just

food. Chief among them all is the Eland who is

considered the most potent. /Xam, the Cape

Bushman, believed that /Kaggen (a trickster god)

created the Eland and cared for it most.

It is the most frequently depicted animal in many

regions of southern Africa and one for which the

Khoisan artists took most care.

The Shamans, while performing a trance dance,

aspire to possess eland potency.

The animal itself is the epitome of power and

gentleness. That these attributes should inspire

the Khoisan to revere this animal is testament to

their own aspirations.

The Moon

The Khoisan are people of the moon - the moon

being their principle object of worship and inspiration.

It has been recorded that there are 38 Khoisan words

for the moon.

They would perform trance-dancing in concentric circles

invoking the moon's power over and in association with

their lives. Dancing for the full moon was a way of

acknowledging her abundance and thereby invoking

the same sense of plenty for themselves.

Some Khoisan believed that the cup of a waxing

moon (a c-shaped moon) contained the spirits of the

dead and any clouds that passed by was the hair of

those dead souls.

Others believed that the crescent moon, with its sharp

points, is male and the round, pregnant, full moon is female.

There are 8 phases of the moon, represented in my painting

by the 8 eland gracefully moving across the canvas.

The Kokkerboom (Quiver Tree)

Traditionally, these trees were (and still are) used by Khoisan

hunters to construct quivers to carry their arrows.

Because the trees live so long (approx 350 years) they

provide an invaluable living record of past climatic events.

Pleiades (Seven Sisters star-formation)

The Nama refered to Pleiades as the daughters of the

Sky God. That the constellation represents a feminine

archetype is confirmed by the English name, the

Seven Sisters.

In one Khoisan tale they are said to be a bag of ostrich

eggs carried by the hunter, Great /Gao (a divine human),

who dumped them in disgust after missing the zebra

he was after. Eggs are universal symbols of creation

and fertility.

From where does this image of fertility arise? Astronomers

now know that the Pleiades is a cluster of young stars,

having formed in the‘fertilising’cloud of a nebula. In their

infancy the stars are invisible as they are shrouded by the

dust and gas of the nebula.

However, as they grow their radiation clears the veil, and

the become visible. Just as eggs are symbols of fertility,

so will new star clusters - like the ‘women’ of the Pleiades -

produce offspring in due course.

It is reported that when the Pleiades appears in the east

Khoisan children are lifted by their mothers and presented

to the stars. The children are taught to stretch their hands

out toward the constellation. This recognition of the connection

between a new human and a new star cluster is a powerful and

moving ritual, a perfect enactment of our essential nature.

References :
1.Flowers in the Sky - A celebration of southern African starlore”

by Clarrissa Hughes (2012).

2. Images of Power by David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson

(publ Southern Book Publ 1989)

3.Water, Stone and Legend - Rock Art of the Klein Karoo

by Renee Rust (publ Struik 2011)*

4. (with reference to Bleek’s dictionary)

5. (relating to the use of quiver trees for

studying climate changes)