Despite the end-of-year rains that fell in the greater Kruger region, the riverbeds surrounding Motswari Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati are still dry.
I’m sitting on the coarse, thirsty, yellow sand where the Sharalumi will no doubt come rushing down by mid-January. The sky is grey and heavy with clouds, the vegetation surrounding us, a tentative, hopeful green.
Yellow, grey, green.
A summer-in-the-bushveld colour scheme suddenly broken by vivid splashes of red, blue, orange, pink. Five women draped in richly coloured, sharply hooded crochet cloaks come dancing down the dry riverbed toward us.
From the other side, a man in an inflatable sumo wrestler suit with a toy rifle in his right hand pirouettes, meeting them somewhere in the middle. For a few moments they all twirl and twist together, delicate steps to the rhythm of a sweet song being tinkered on a tiny red piano by a world famous concert pianist perched on a nearby rock.
The sumo wrestler points his gun at one of the swaying birds of paradise (who, it turns out, are actually representative of rhinos) and shouts “bang!” She falls down, at the feet of a singing woman draped in shreds of silver paper with a shiny horn atop her head. Another “Bang! Bang! Bang!... Bang!” and they all fall down.
“How absolutely and wonderfully bizarre” I find myself thinking, feeling like I’ve stepped into some parallel reality.
And no, hallucinogenics did not feature in my weekend diet whatsover. As far as I know at least.
Instead, this whimsical moment formed part of a brand new art-infused awareness campaign called Rhino Disharmony.
Unlike many other similar campaigns, this one is not aimed at raising funds for the war on poaching, instead a group of hugely talented local artists have fused their seemingly boundless creative energy and collaborated to create something that they hope will start a communication revolution.
Hosted by Motswari Private Game Reserve owners Marion Geiger and Fabrice Orengo de Lamaziere, the CoCreate launch event for Rhino Disharmony saw acclaimed Chinese concert pianist Tian Jiang join forces with Freshlyground's little dynamite Zolani Mahola to create a truly spine-tingling song. Simultaneously Geiger, an artist in her own right, the legendary Beezy Bailey and mythical Barend de Wet poured their hearts into visual artworks in the form of paintings, crochet craft and movement. Finally head ranger, Chad Cocking shared his talent for wildlife photography, while Friederike von Stackelberg caught the moments between moments on camera.
Infused with crackling passion for the precious lives of one of Africa's most endangered animals, the launch weekend was only the start of something much bigger, which will be hitting social media in full force later this month.
Coordinated with Ogilvy Earth, the artists aim to reach the affluent South East Asian users of rhino horn with the message that the unsustainable and cruel destruction of rhinos for their horn causes a disruption in nature that leads to overall disharmony in the users’ lives.
The idea of harmony and balance is a very important one in Eastern medicinal tradition, as the health of the body, mind and spirit are considered to be equally important. Thus emphasising the fact that respecting nature and, more importantly, protecting it is integral to the overall balance and harmony of the human race.
The premise for the campaign is very basic: The illegal rhino horn trade disrupts society and nature causing social and environmental disharmony. By partaking in its use the user invites disharmony to enter their world and cause disruption on all levels.
They are looking at targeting the youth market specifically.
"It's a bit like smoking, you see. If my dad or a peer told me to stop smoking, I probably wouldn't pay much attention. However if my kids tell me that they find the habit disgusting, I would make an effort to stop," explains Fabrice.
The current state of rhino poaching
The start of the Rhino Disharmony campaign was made all the more poignant as the Timbavati reserve had suffered the loss of one of their rhinos to poachers shortly before the CoCreate event kicked off.
It was an especially traumatic event for Geiger who has a deep personal connection with the area through her family's ownership of Motswari and she decided to immortalise her memory of the horrific incident in an artwork depicting the position the poached rhino was found in.
The extreme personal horror of such a find is, of course, amplified by the devastating total of 1 215 rhinos slaughtered for their horns last year alone. The whopping four-digit figure is a full 882 more than the number of poached rhinos reported in 2010 and the latest report from Wessa reveals that in the first four months of 2015, 49 rhinos have already been slaughtered.
While many have become desensitised to the rhino's plight, these figures serve as an important reminder that this is a battle that deserves our full attention and dedication.
How to get involved
The Rhino Disharmony campaign entered full throttle at the beginning of April with the launch of two videos in which Tian Jiang and Zolani Mahola explain their involvement and passion for the project.
The launch of the campaign will also be celebrated with a spectacular Rhino Disharmony concert set to take place at the old Land Bank building in Cape Town.
The evening will be a visual, oral and creative stimulant to create a viral passive attack through creative art and genius, culminating in Tian and Zolani performing a special duet, written shortly after the discovery of the poached rhino at Motswari.
Date: Monday 13 April
Venue: Land Bank building, Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town
Ticket prices: Between R400 and R1 000
Keep you eyes on the Rhino Disharmony Facebook page and check out their website for upcoming events and further details about the campaign.