Zebras: Spirits out to play.


Outside Camp Toka Leya on the Zambezi River in Zambia, we had our first game drive.

The day was dry, dusty and warm as we climbed onto the earth covered, open safari truck. A short time into our drive, we were rewarded with the site of Zebras. All about stripes and patterns, zebras’  stripes cover all parts of their skin. As their pajama-like attire is fanciful, they themselves are whimsical. In one photograph, a zebra posed for me in a zany dance position, one leg crossed over the other. In another photograph, two zebras showed me their backsides and mooned me. Zebras are shyer than other African creatures and don’t want us too close to them. because they are not as swift as their enemies, they have reason to be cautious.

Zebras are so charming that I want to approach them, an impossibility here of course, but I have heard that they have been saddled and ridden.  In fact, I have even heard of a “zonkey”.

For the painting, I used shades of Burnt Sienna, obvious in the surroundings. I made a base coat of Cadmium Red, and this base coat glows through the white of some of the stripes. The base coat used a minimal amount of pigment and enough turpentine to let the paint “do its own thing” so it was drippy, translucent and very loose. Tree branches echo the movement of stripes in the subject.

Zebras inspire mirth and they mock more serious animals with black and white prison stripes, though I can’t imagine them imprisoned. They appear too carefree and lighthearted, like spirits out to play. They are the light side of life, the spirit behind a smile, the innocence of children, a pleasant memory of an African trip.

-Rita Gould