Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kagen and the Eland (post one)...

Another sketch from one of my sketchbooks, this time done with carbothello pastel pencils and a blending stump.

My artist's journal class had gone to the Museum of Nature and Science downtown and gotten a private room to study a ton of pin-dried arthropod specimens. Ever see that scene in the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom movie, where that HUGE insect crawls through the chick's hair? We got to see some of those insects, and they were much bigger in real life, I swear. It was FANTASTIC!

...anyway. One of the specimens was a mantis, and I love mantises (I love a lot of insects and arachnids, for the record). I went home and looked up some of the old records of bushmen folktales from the late 1800s that were in the manuscripts of the Lloyd and Bleek Collection. I wish I had full access to the collection, but my college isn't among the participating institutions...grr. Anyway. I read up a lot, from there and other resources, on Kaggen/Kagen/Cagn the Mantis, a superbeing (not really a full deity by bushman concept) and especially enjoyed the stories of him and the Eland.

Supposedly, when Kagen discovered the newborn eland and learned its name (stories vary on how this came to pass, from Kagen's wife the Dassie birthing it after he punished her to his creation of it in secret on his own, to having turned another being's shoe into the eland), he hid it away in seclusion and nourished it on honey which he was supposed to be taking home to his wife. A relative, the Meerkat/suricat, discovers this and goes to find the eland. Not knowing of Kagen's purpose for the Eland and being a selfish and presumptuous individual, he slaughters the Eland and makes it into meat. Kagen is griefstricken on discovering the murder of his pet, and says that from that point forward, because the Suricat had spoiled the eland for its true purpose, the suricat must always hunt the eland. Supposedly this is the origin of both the eland, the largest antelope in Africa, and the ritual of hunting among the bushmen. Certain rules, according to Bushman rituals, must be followed to successfully hunt and kill an eland, or otherwise Kagen protects them and will not let them come to harm by the hunters. Anyway. So I just found the idea of Kagen the Mantis caring for the Eland so affectionately (he also had a pet springbok which was once stolen by an elephant who replaced the little antelope with her own calf, which Kagen did not appreciate at all -- he killed the calf) to be a very intriguing story.

I'm of a mind to, at some point, attempt to illustrate a short storybook in which I could revise the stories of Kagen to make for a good children's story.