South African Artist Depicts Toll of Big-Game Trophy Hunting
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.
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.
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.
“Beading the skeletons is incredibly time-consuming—the beads have to be threaded, wrapped, and glued,” Ziman said.
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.
Bones will be on display Feb. 6 through March 5 at the C.A.V.E. Gallery at 1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, California.
For more information, visit www.rz-art.com.