kali van der merwe


tales of death



The Latin fabula refers to a story, a matter, a concern or subject under discussion. The word matter originates from the Latin mater (mother) and is the origin of our word material. Embedded in the very etymology of the word for the stuff of existence is the feminine and the act of storytelling.


Nex means blood of the slain, murder, slaughter, violent death. Latin has 27 different words for death and 33 words for kill, which suggests acquaintance with violence but also familiarity with and nuanced exploration of death that we no longer have.


Ever since witnessing my own mother’s passing 13 years ago, I have developed a deep interest in the transitional moment where flesh and spirit separate. How that ephemeral, yet poignantly real, event leaves its trace on physical form.


In this series death has left a violent mark on the bodies of the animals for they are mostly victims of a high impact death as road kill. A baboon killed in an electricity pylon incident is an exception.


The animal subjects are situated in mythical, celestial tableaux intended as visual praise poems to their lives. They look remarkably serene given their violent deaths.


These are wild animals who might not ordinarily be encountered. Sadly their existence is fading as humans make ceaseless incursions into their habitats. Road kill is a mixed blessing, providing me with subject matter, while ultimately contributing to the demise of a fragile wild life population.


The subsequent effect death has on the decay of form over time is a source of fascination for me too. I have great reverence for form, yet a reminder that all form is ultimately empty, is never far from my awareness.


Each image has an accompanying written fabula, or story, detailing how the deceased was encountered or gifted to me.


Analogous to road kill destruction, my artistic creation takes place at night, and involves light.  My  photographic process is termed 'light painting', which blurs boundaries between the two disciplines. I deliberately leave my methodology rudimentary and haphazard, providing opportunity for the agency of chance.


Image creation becomes an encounter and discovery over time in the dark with the unknown and invisible.


Now more than ever we are staring, head on, into the lights of death, committing collective suicide.


If we search closely and earnestly enough into our own reckless, negligent behaviour, we might see our fate in the cloudy, shrunken eyes and bloody mouths of these deceased animals.

all images are available in limited edition prints. contact: Kali

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