PICS: Cape Town road lights up with endemic artworks

2015-05-15 14:35
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Cape Town - If you've found yourself on Cape Town's scenic Rhodes Drive after dark recently, chances are good you may have momentarily felt as though you had dropped down a rabbit hole and right into some enchanted forest.

As luminous frogs and fish, birds and 'bokkies' emerged from among the trees on either side of the road, you probably found yourself wondering whether your eyes were playing tricks on you or if you were experiencing a moment of transcendental consciousness. 

Welcome to the Endemic Project!

Created by local film maker, Bryan Little, the project was inspired by his frequent commutes along this road that connects his home to the city bowl. 

In a video introducing the project, Little explains: "I’ve always wanted to do a project on this road, give back a little bit for all the daydreams. I’m sick of feeding the internet with my films.

I wanted to make something where people have to be present. They have to be there. They have to feel the cold air. They have to smell the trees. They have to bring themselves to the experience. And in that way, I think they can be inspired more." 

Thus the idea to create a series of installation artworks depicting various endemic species, seemingly painted with light, and display them along this stretch of road that forms a common ground between the realm of nature, with Table Mountain National Park on one side, and the world humans inhabit, with the suburbs and the CBD on the other.

Adding even more magic to the visual feast that is the project, is a geo-tagged soundtrack featuring the voices of the various creatures to the backdrop of soft guitar samples, made available by VoiceMap and arranged by Sylvan Aztok. Commuters can download the app and experience the drive from the perspective of an otherworldly explorer. 

In order to get a little more insight into the project, we popped 7 questions off to Bryan Little. This is what he had to say:

1.  We're sure there are a lot of factors, but in short, what inspired the Endemic Project?

The endemic project initially started as a sort of tribute. I drive Rhodes drive frequently and it's a great source of daydreams and I owe that rather eerie and mesmerizing stretch of forest road a lot in that I have conceptualized and found moments of inspiration for a lot of work driving that road. So in essence I wanted to give back a little of that magic.

My starting point was as simple as wanting to make something magical, something that would inspire people to for a moment find wonder in the world again.

The endemic species idea followed this as I am incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a conservation family with my dad and brother both dedicating their lives to conservation biology and I suppose by osmosis I have inherited a reverence for the natural world.

Endemic species are species that occur nowhere else on earth, we are fortunate in the western cape to have an incredibly rich biodiversity that is unique and found nowhere else. I wanted to celebrate that. 

2. So, what exactly does the project entail? How can people make the most of the experience?

There are two elements to the project, one is visual - as you drive your headlights cause the creatures to glow in the dark, as you travel different species and scenes will reveal themselves illuminated in the dark forest. The second element is a geo-tagged soundtrack arranged by sound artist sylvan aztok.

As you drive past the creatures different soundscapes made from the voices of the animals are triggered. This is truly the magical part of the experience and turns your car into a magical spaceship.

I really recommend people download the app and do the experience with the sound . It's fairly simple, just download the app to a smart phone and push play. It's new technology and very exciting, best experienced driving at 50km/h

3. How did you make the actual artworks? And how did you decide on where what would be placed along the road?

The artworks are made using reflector tape. The kind you would normally use on trailers and caravans etc. As a filmmaker I love that they need light to work. I draw the animals onto outdoor ply painted black and then cut the tape into strips and stick it onto the outline I have drawn. 

Where they are placed was carefully considered with Simon with their voices and the soundscape in mind. So, for example, the frogs and toads lead into the galaxias fish so we have the amazing frog sounds, water running, the sound of a waterfall and the ambient sound of a giant kingfisher creating a soundscape of a river system, then we drive further and we are into the tunnel of the birds  and we hear all of them come to life.  

4. What are the creatures people should keep an eye out for as they drive along?

There are 16 different species featured in the endemic project all unique to the fynbos floral kingdom.

These range from the critically endangered geometric tortoise to the dwarf chameleon and also look out for many birds and the arum lily frog, mountain pride butterflies that are the sole pollinator of the red Disa orchid and my personal favorite the cove of galaxias fish ! There are also cape grysbok and other fantastic creatures .

Check out the Facebook page to see the collectable cards that have interesting info on all the species 

5. What are you hoping to achieve with the project? And are you looking to do similar sorts of immersive installations in the future?

To be honest, all I wanted to achieve was to give people a moment of exultation and wonder.

Life can be hard and I wanted to find the mystic in the mundane. Transport a drive home into something that elevates. As a filmmaker I am interested in new ways to tell stories, in the 100 years of cinema, the way we experience cinema hasn't really changed. Whether in a theater watching a big screen or on a couch watching a laptop the essential dynamic is the same.

So for me this is my first foray into what I call future film. My next project I will take what I have learnt here and experiment in new directions. 

6. How long will the installation still be running for?

The installation will run until the species disappear.

People remove them for whatever reason and I have built this into the project . When a creature in the road goes missing a lot of people get really upset, myself included, and I feel that this is appropriate, that people feel that loss, it makes the idea of species extinction a little less abstract.

As a lot of the featured endemic species are endangered this is especially poignant I believe. 

The Endemic Project - behind the scenes from Fly on the Wall on Vimeo.

7. It really seems like a magical experience (I’m so keen to check it out myself now) – what feedback have you received from people?

The response has been overwhelming and the Facebook page has over a thousand engaged fans which is amazing.

It's become a community of people of all different types that enjoy the experience. I love that people take their kids who love it and adults have written to say that it makes them feel a pure childlike wonder again which to me is total success . Check the Facebook page to keep up to date and see photos, videos and info about the species and the project and especially info on how to download the soundtrack.

I sincerely hope lots of people get to enjoy it before it disappears. 

Have you spotted the Endemic Project? Send us your pics to, tweet @traveller24_sa, tag traveller24_sa on Instagram or connect with us on Facebook

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