South African Artist Depicts Toll of Big-Game Trophy Hunting

The ‘Bones’ series is designed to raise awareness of the killing of lions and other African wildlife.
(Photo: Ralph Ziman)
Feb 6, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

American hunters who travel to Africa in pursuit of the continent’s most iconic species often aim to bring back a trophy—maybe a horn, head, pelt, claw, or whole animal carcass—something to show for paying upwards of $50,000 for the chance to kill a lion, for example.

(Photo: Ralph Ziman)

The current plight of those animals, killed for sport and trophy, is inspiration for Ralph Ziman, a South African artist, photographer, and filmmaker, whose solo exhibition, Bones, goes on display this week in Venice, California.

RELATED: Cecil the Lion's Death Reveals Americans' Big Role in Trophy Hunting

Ziman, 53, now lives in Los Angeles, but he travels back to his hometown of Johannesburg from time to time. Lately he’s noticed that even following the social media outrage triggered by the killing of Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion, passengers on flights from Atlanta to South Africa were not discreet about the purpose of their journey.

“On many of my recent trips to South Africa, I was struck by men in bush gear on the airplane and by the hunting rifles waiting for them with the oversized baggage,” Ziman said. “The idea of visiting a place as exotic and beautiful as Africa purely for the purpose of killing wild animals blows my mind.”

For Bones, Ziman created a series of photographs depicting skeletons adorned with colorful African beads set amid darkened skies and savanna landscapes. The skulls and skeletons are made from a synthetic resin, modeled after the bones of rhinos, wildebeests, chimpanzees, and other “trophy” species. Ziman had a team of five help decorate the skeletons with some 80 pounds of beads.

(Photo: Ralph Ziman)

“Beading the skeletons is incredibly time-consuming—the beads have to be threaded, wrapped, and glued,” Ziman said.

(Photo: Ralph Ziman)

He hopes his work sheds light and raises more awareness on the issue of trophy hunting beyond press coverage and fleeting social media posts.

“Whatever happened to the idea that you take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time?” Ziman asked.

(Photo: Ralph Ziman)

Bones will be on display Feb. 6 through March 5 at the C.A.V.E. Gallery at 1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, California.

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