Nature's balance restored

The huge sculptures show human figures morphing into and uniting with elements drawn from beasts. (Andi Norton)

The huge sculptures show human figures morphing into and uniting with elements drawn from beasts. (Andi Norton)

Untamed: Exploring the lost balance between humankind and nature, a year-long collaborative exhibition in Kirstenbosch gardens, began as a life vision of wildlife sculptor Dylan Lewis.

He asked psychologist, psychiatrist and poet Ian McCallum and architect Enrico Daffonchio to work with him on the exhibition, and was chosen by Kirstenbosch as its 2010 project.

"It made for a very exciting collaboration as all three men have such a similar philosophy around their work and the message they want to convey," says project manager Andi Norton. "Together we sourced a team of like-minded people to work on the project."

Lewis's huge sculptures show human figures morphing into, melding and uniting with elements drawn from beast; both real and imagined.

"What I'm working with at the moment in my sculpture is the idea of a co-existing internal and external wilderness," Lewis says.

The idea underpinned the exhibition: humans are part of nature and so loss of nature affects everyone.

"I think it is really about finding what is spontaneous and what is natural within us, and through that reconnect with the world in a different and better sense of the word," says Daffonchio.

McCallum writes: "Stand up inside your own skeleton. Feast on your animal heart."

The exhibition explored ideas around the importance of the natural world to humankind's psyche. It developed the notion that there may be painful psychological and spiritual consequences of mankind's destruction of wilderness and natural habitats.

"We've become so immune to the constant battering of facts and figures — so many rhinos killed, so many glaciers melted, so many species on the brink of extinction — and we no longer take them in in a visceral way.

"So the strategy for the environment was to highlight the loss of wilderness in a creative way," says Norton.

Daffonchio constucted an innovative temporary pavilion that contrasted rusted materials, emblematic of industria, with a living wall made of recycled plastic bottles and plants selected by Kirstenbosch's horticultural team.

This demonstrated the possibility of integrating natural and man-made worlds in ecologically intelligent design.

The architecture, poems and sculptures together constituted "a deep invitation to remember where we came from", says McCallum.

It is evident from the comments left by the thousands of visitors that the invitation was taken seriously, and the experience left its mark.

Privately funded, the exhibition took three months to construct, but was a full year in the making.



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