Current rock art research agrees that most if not all San paintings are metaphors for their complex religious, mythical and spiritual beliefs. The paintings on the rock surface can be interpreted as a thin veil between the material world and the spiritual world.
I produced a series of five bronze sculptures and eleven paintings reversed on glass, in which I’ve attempted to capture how shamans might perceive themselves while in the deepest hallucinatory trance state or altered states of consciousness. In these states they believed they could communicate with their dead ancestors to receive guidance, control the animals they hunted, predict the weather, and heal the sick within their community.
The word therianthrope is Greek in origin and refers to an image that combines both human and animal characteristics. According to several San myths often quoted by modern-day researchers, in earlier times all animals and humans were indistinguishable from one another. In these myths animals evolved from humans and not the other way around, and the very first ancestors who were alive at the beginning of time had heads and feet like animals.
My sculptures attempt to depict the actual physical and mental sensations shamas experienced whilst in the deepest of trance states as they perceived themselves transforming into animals during their dance ritual, bringing alive, enlarging and giving form and shape to typical therianthrope images.
My paintings use quotes of San convicts speaking about their myths, which were extensively collected by Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd in the 1870s.