Kabila - Tribe (Swahili)
“I am the birth of a sanctuary. When you can no longer see me; when you think that I have turned to dust, know that I have breathed a haven into every life I touched. I flow with the tribe. And the tribe is all life. I will carry on. I will flourish until sanctity occupies every crevice of this land and you are flooded with love.”
Photography Chris Martin Bahr
It was as she traced the canyons that breathed between her baby’s ribs that a gorilla of a dying tribe in the African rainforest began to lose hope.
It was a tear she wept for every life she had seen lost that formed a watering hole amidst the web of lianas and mahoganies that sheltered her.
And it was with the half-cut tongue of her hunted brothers and sisters that she found the neighbouring human kingdom and she cried,
“Humans, where is your dignity? I do not see it amongst the deadened eyes and waxen skin of my family that hangs black on your white walls. I do not see it amongst this theft of life. When you take those who we love most, you are writing your own karma. And it will dawn on you with the rage of a decimated bloodline.
But humans, I don’t feel the rage of my tribe. I feel sad. I wish for the spirits of my family to be freed from your hungry skin, and so I ask that you restore the balance. Either return our families from the blood that drips on your knives or provide us a worthy exchange, and your karmic debts will be wiped clean.”
The humans tried to bring back different things to the Kabila – but none were of interest. They brought back gold, they brought back luxury foods, prized riches – but to their confusion, the gorillas weren’t impressed. They had lost their families, what good were riches to them?
So, with no other way to turn: the humans looked to themselves. They decided it was time to go inside and ask the spirits to help. Spirit said to them, “Humans, you are trying to repay with currencies that you have gained only through power. These gorillas do not care for power, for they have lost that which thrives in love. If you wish to repay them, you must do so once realising your love, for in stealing theirs, you have broken your own hearts”. Frustrated, the humans asked, “But we can’t undo the damage we’ve done. We can’t bring their loved ones back from the dead. How can we find love to give to these creatures?”
Spirit smiled and said “I ask that you gather an offering from every member of the forest until you reach water. The answer will await you there.”
And so, the humans began this journey, but little did they realise the enormity of this task! For when they looked out into the rainforest around them they saw that there were thousands of different trees, and each tree housed its own ecosystem, with hundreds and sometimes thousands of different forms of life growing within. They looked to the epiphytes, the bromeliads - how they united with the tree limbs and created watery sanctuaries that hung from the air. Amazed, the humans climbed the trees and peered inside to see an underwater haven of tadpoles, freshwater crabs, snails and all sorts of algaes and lichens. They all lived together in this ocean amongst the canopies. They looked to the soil and saw so many insects and animals sifting through the fruits and the decay – dispersing seeds and shaping the foliage – architects in their own right. They saw the way the tree roots would cradle mushrooms like a child, and the mushrooms found nutrients to share between them all. They looked up and saw animals swinging through the vines, birds feeding their children, butterflies gliding through the filtered sunlight.
In a daze, they wondered through this teeming ecosystem with a newfound sense of awe. Days went by as they went to each unique piece of life and asked its permission for an offering. To each life they touched, they said “Thank you. You have sheltered us, given us food, given us a community, even though we refused to take part in it. We see the love you share between each other now as you each gift us a piece of yourselves to help repay our karmic debt. And we see now that you gift it to us because we all thrive when we work together. We all thrive when we give love to one another.” Soon, they reached the edge of a waterhole and looked in to see their reflection staring back. They saw the way they were, themselves, wild creatures – long limbs and gatherers hands. They felt the ecosystems within their own bodies move with the rhythm of the forest. A symbiosis was dawning.
They gazed at the reflections of the water and were transfixed as the Gorilla’s tears slowly formed into the reflections of each of the gorillas that had died at the humans hands. As these spirits looked out at the world outside of the water, the humans threw the offerings of the rainforest in and whispered “We ask not for your forgiveness – but for you to release us as we work to forgive ourselves. We wish you all the freedom you deserve.” With this, the tears were dried up and the offerings grew into their own little forest, every aspect of life accounted for. The gorillas lived on, But no longer as gorillas, they were this new growth of the forest, watching on – a sanctuary for the creatures of the land to flourish.
Spirit said that the nature of wildness is kindness - for by supporting the life of our community, they will in turn feed us/look after us. The foundations of every ecosystem is made of millions of life forms, taking only what they need and sharing the rest, because we are only as strong as the weakest link.
When creating this sculpture of the Mountain Gorilla, I was heavily inspired by the works of Dianne Fossey. She was the initial scientist and conservationist who shared the complex and incredible lives of gorillas with the Western world - who, at the time, believed and knew only what they had seen of the “savage beast” from King Kong. When taking on her teachings to integrate into my own life, I came across one sentence that interested me: “Any observer is an intruder in the domain of the wild animal.” This is an obvious fact when immersed in the wild land, but a few questions sparked in me from reading this.
~Just how wild can we say we really are - individually and collectively?
~Until we rewild, are we intruders to this earth?
~When we attempt to rewild ourselves, will we come to instinctively understand the workings of all forms of wildness? If yes, in what ways will this understanding improve both our daily living and our environmental activism?
~If we wish to understand another being, what barriers/patterns must we unlearn and break down in order to connect more purely?
These questions lead me to a really powerful memory that I experienced a few years ago.
I was once chased by a wild rhino. This is a moment that has guided me a lot: I was in the jungle of Nepal and walked into a wild rhinoceros’ territory. The man I was with told me to climb up a tree and I was barely off the ground when I saw it charging me. In this moment my body and my mind fully embraced death. There was nowhere I could go, and in that moment I let go. Of everything. And it was in this timeless moment that the rhino stopped. It was only a metre away from me, and it stared deep into my eyes. So open, so vulnerable and pure I was - I just had a form of ego death when I embraced my physical death - and the very next moment I was reborn into this wild and intimate connection. I had an inner rebirth into life while this rhino’s wise and feeling soul stared straight into my own. In that moment I felt as if this connection rewired my being into powerful and vulnerable, primal life. The rhino then walked away.
When we look at each creature, plant, life of the world - we find qualities that can teach us a lot and also that we already connect to - because they are traits that we both have. And when we see these connections we really start to see how we fit into the natural world, and how we wish to live in the natural world. In this moment I experienced with the rhinoceros, I was an intruder - but once I’d let go of all I was - I experienced a wild connection so deep. This shows me how powerful and transformative pure connection can really be.
Photography Ronan Donovan
The mountain gorilla, depending on their ranking in the tribe, generally embodies openness (a trait which is necessary for living amongst a complex tribe), creativity, strong and respected family structures. The leaders are wise, intelligent and sensitive, and do whatever they can to protect their family.
~What can we take from this that connects to our wild and expansive nature?
Kabila is also a ceremonial mug and holder, and holds on offering bowl above her head. She is currently available for purchase on the Council of Ancients shop.