In 1996 an extremely disturbing article appeared in Time magazine that cast a spotlight on the disappearance of political dissidents in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The article specifically mentioned the Fish River valley, some forty kilometres east of the artist's hometown of Grahamstown, as a place where corpses were allegedly disposed of by apartheid security elements.
This dramatically beautiful area was where the artist and long time friend, Michael Hallier (Professor and Head of Fine Art at Fort Hare University, 1981 - 2000), often spent time exploring and drawing the landscape. This primeval landscape sustains a wide variety of flora and fauna. Predators such as leopard and jackal are plentiful and it is common knowledge that ravenous predators and scavengers such as bushpigs leave little trace of flesh and bone.
The Fish River formed the eastern frontier between the British forces and Xhosa tribesmen in the 1800's and was the scene of many a battle. The remains of old British Colonial fortifications and graveyards can be found dotted all along the banks of the Fish and it's tributaries. See: Forts of the Frontier
Hodnett has depicted what initially appears to be an idyllic moonlit landscape. He has half-hidden the elusive lunar animal in the shadows of the euphorbia trees thereby underpinning the disturbing theme of the painting. The fishing rod holders stuck into the river bank allude to more innocent activities. The prickly pear cactus in the foreground refers to the invasion of alien species that threaten the indigenous bush of Southern Africa.
This painting stands as a homage to victims of political intolerance, especially those who were killed in the process of ridding South Africa of Apartheid.
The painting was first exhibited at Art First - Contemporary Art, in Cork Street, London in 1997 and again in Vancouver, Canada in 2002. The work forms an important part of the artist's private collection.
Signed lower right. Size: 165 cm. x 122 cm. - 65 in. x 48 in.
© Copyright Noel Hodnett - All rights reserved.