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'Looking into the souls' of animals

CCTV.com

05-31-2016 00:10 BJT

Artists in Namibia are getting so close to the country's animals they can "look into their souls". That's the appeal of art safaris that have been running there for the past decade.

The world's fastest land mammal is also graceful when walking - or even snoozing.

And these artists, armed with easel and paintbrush, have come from far and wide to study the cheetah at such close quarters.

It's their first stop - about an hour from Namibia's capital, Windhoek - on a two-week "art safari" through some of southern Africa's finest game reserves and national parks.

Artists in Namibia are getting so close to the country

Artists in Namibia are getting so close to the country's animals they can "look into their souls".

Mary-Anne Bartlett has run more than 150 art safaris since 1999.

"When you're sketching, you're collecting a moment of time, you're sitting in an environment, and you become part of that habitat. And the animals will often walk into the scene. And that's a phenomenal feeling, rather than feeling as if you're chasing things," Mary-Anne Bartlett said.

Safari artist Paul Hazeldine first came across Bartlett's art safaris a decade ago, and he has been a regular on these creative forays ever since.

"I'd been doing lots of over-landing, going with all these safaris, and they gave you less and less time to stop. It was almost like a race to get a photograph. And I came across Mary-Anne in one of her shows – she just stood there painting. And it's one of these cases – I'd never painted since school, so it's like 20, 30 years with never painting, and I thought, it's interesting!" Paul Hazeldine said.

Artists in Namibia are getting so close to the country

Artists in Namibia are getting so close to the country's animals they can "look into their souls".

The group's next stop is at Okapuka, half an hour north of the capital.

Here, they find a white rhino - threatened due to escalating poaching for its horn.

These art safaris are open to all ages, regardless of experience.

Fran Williams has no formal training in art, and this is her first art safari.

"I read somewhere, or I was told, that when you sit and paint or draw an animal, you actually have the opportunity to look into its soul. And I think having just sat for probably 20 minutes, half an hour, and drawn a rhino several times, I think this is very true, and I'm sure it applies to all animals," Fran Williams said.

More than mere photo ops, art safaris such as this help to re-establish our ancient soul connection with the animal kingdom.

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