Region/Concept: North Africa, Swiftness
Sub-Concepts: Drawing, Rock, Silhouette, Animal, Desert
Description: Saharan rock art reveals the importance of the camel in the nomadic cultures of Libya, Algeria, Chad, Niger, and others, as well as the timelessness of the drawing gesture.
The engravings are done by scratching the rock, then applying color in order to make silhouettes of moving images, flashing riders on animals we call camels, or dromedaries. The image is frozen (that is its nature) but we of course see the movement of this frozen moment. The rock is the most static object; depending on its scale, monumental and permanent. No wonder it is often used for shelter (where the movement rests) or as a final resting place (a tomb). And yet the drawings on these static walls show the kinetic drama unfolding outside: running, transporting, traveling, warring, playing. In fact, the word “dromedary” comes from the Greek root “dromas”, meaning runner. Camel thus equals swiftness. This speed is harnessed and implemented through a number of elements: a) the animal, b) the human-rider, and c) the constraining devices such as saddles, reigns, whips, all of which have changed very little since their invention two millennia ago when they were composed together to form that imposing desert-machine-ship we still see today. But besides the functionality of this animal-vessel, with an ascetic metabolism that makes it perfectly suitable for the atmospheric extremes of the desert, we also see adornments, or abstract drawings on the blankets falling across the humps and necks of the animal, protective fabrics veiling the riders, all of which make this arranged animality perfectly immanent to the sphere it occupies (to its beauty and its ruthlessness): the desert. And strangely enough, if we look closely, the rock drawings go beyond the photographs, turning into pixelated images similar to those we see in video games. The hand that drew the lines has not only represented his or her experience; it has also tapped into its elemental particles, those that belong neither to past nor to the future, but to the virtual, to the creation itself.