The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
Our posting to the border regions of Namibia (South West Africa)/ Angola, allowed me to see new vistas and new animal, bird, insect and plant life. The insect and bird life in particular was quite prolific. Many of these I sketched when opportunity allowed.
(above) Near our mortar pits and bunkers, inside the base at Rundu, Kavangoland, was an acre or two of virgin bush. The place teemed with insect and bird life. I drew this handsome and fast moving beetle as it rested in the shade of a tree after scuttled across the hot white sand in December 1984. Named the ‘Oogpister’ in Afrikaans (Eye Pisser) this black beetle with white side strips is suitably named for its ability to squirt a noxious and corrosive fluid at anyone or thing that dares to disturb it.
A similarly caustic artillerist was a large moth shaped like a Russian MIG that on occasion would aerially squirt a noxious fluid if disturbed or not. If this fluid was not washed off immediately, the skin would burn and blister. We would often wake up in the morning with skin blisters. We called this moth by the Afrikaans name ‘pismot’ (piss moth) and we were all exceedingly scared of them. If one of these moths flew into our tent, a state of war was declared until the creature was dispatched.
(above) A Toktokkie. Sketch of a Beetle, Rundu, Kavangoland, 26 December 1984. Many fast moving beetles crossed the scorching white sands of Rundu. This fellow had expired, allowing me to do an accurate and detailed drawing. The extravagance in the lower right hand corner is another thing all together (young and silly).
A page from a letter on Southern Cross Fund writing-pad paper to my brother Gordon Stuart McCallum, with a drawing of a large Corn Cricket (Libanasidus vittatus) that I encountered while I was in the Kavangoland. 1985. We don’t see these crickets in Natal and this was my first startling encounter. These creatures are well-known to resident of the suburbs of Johannesburg, who nickname them ‘Sandton Prawns’. My brother had already begun collecting butterflies, and we were interested in all thing insectivorous. Tender-hearted Lepidopterist – in later years he found it impossible to take the lives of the beautiful butterflies he caught, and thus ended his hobby.
(above) A large locust, Bloekombos, Modderfontein, 5 August 1984. I don’t recall if the locust was alive when I drove an awl through its thorax, but if I did, I repent. Now, I cannot even kill a Durban cockroach without feeling all-consuming guilt.
(above) A pen and wash study of a centipede, Rundu, Kavangoland, In pencil, I factually recorded that this venomous creature had 19 segments and 22 pairs of legs, January 1985.
(above) A juvenile Bushveld lizard (Heliobolus lugubris) painted at Rundu Base, Kavangoland. Its unusual gait had caught my eye. It settled long-enough in the shade of a bush to allow me to sketch and paint this lacertilian. The unusual aposematic colouration of this lizard is believed to be a mimicking of the formic acid squirting Tiger Beetle. December 1984.
A ballpoint pen sketch of a Chameleon clinging to the magazine of my R4 rifle, Rundu, Kavangoland, 22 December 1984.
An ink and pen sketch of the ubiquitous Kaokoland donkey. One dark and miserable night while stationed on one of the hills outside Epuwo, It was my turn to keep watch. We had been thus stationed after an expected terrorist intrusion. I was startled to hear someone walking closer and closer – and terrified, I slipped my rifle onto ‘automatic’, positioned myself and waited to open fire. I did not want to wake my comrades for fear I would alert the approaching ‘terrorists’. A minute or so later a dark shape emerged through the gloom and I was just about to pull the trigger when I saw that it was a donkey, munching grass as it tripped along past me. I was so relieved I could have patted it’s asinine ears. If I had opened fire there would have been a dead donkey and I would have felt something of an ass.
8 June 1985, Kaokoland.
A wax pen drawing of a donkey, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985.
Two donkeys, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 19 June 1985.
(above and below) Atop the hill behind the Opuwo Base, near the reservoir, was an abandoned tower, and in the upper floor, atop a metal ladder, were these Barn Owl chicks (Tyto alba affinis) all at different stages of development. I sketched them while they snoozed and huddled in the corner upon a bed of bird droppings and bone encrusted pellets. If one came too close they would hiss most terribly, so I sat quietly in the far corner and sketched them. I am sure their descendants are still flying around Opuwo on powdered wings keeping the rat and mice population under control. 26 May 1985, Kaokoland.
(above) A pen and ink sketch of several owl chicks drawn in pen and ink. They made for interesting drawing as each chick was at a different stage of development, some newborn while others just about to take to the wing. 26 May 1985, Kaokoland.
A ballpoint pen and wash study of two birds, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985
An owl in flight with a rodent, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985.
A ballpoint pen and wash study of a Hoepoe (Upupa africana) Opuwo, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985.
An unfinished Study of a Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima maxima) in ball-point pen and wash, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 8 June 1985.
(above) A pen and ink study of a beautiful female Namaqualand Dove, 3 July 1985, Eyuva Base, Kaokoland. Unfortunately I ran out of space for its long tail is cut-off by the paper margin.
(above) A pen and Ink study of a Cape Turtle Dove, 2 July 1985. I have always loved doves for their lovely ways and soothing calls. My surname McCallum means ‘follower of Saint Columba’ – and those acquainted with all things avian will know that Columba is the Latin for Dove. Saint Columba was given this name because of his humility and holiness.
A Stanley Bustard that was shot near Eyuva, 25 June 1985. Eyuva Base, Kaokoland, SADF. This was unfortunate and I was personally upset to see such a large bird brought to such a needless end. It’s demise did give me the opportunity to sketch this enormous bird.
(above) A quick sketch I did of Kevin Breedt in his ubiquitous red underpants and with the Stanley Bustard he shot and ate, Eyuva base, Kaokoland, 25 June 1985. Kevin had worked on the fishing trawlers off the Natal coast before his call-up and had arrived muscled-up. He was extremely strong and tough. The dry and cold conditions of our training at Bloekombos/ Modderfontein near Potchefstroom had a desiccating effect on our skin and Kevin’s hands cracked right through to his knuckle bones. He appeared quite oblivious to the pain and discomfort. How could I complain about my raw elbows caused from having to do ‘leopard crawl’ during training.
The Himba people herded large flocks of goats. One day, just beyond the Opuwo Base, locals slaughtered a goat. I attended it’s dispatch and took the opportunity to do some on-the-spot sketches. ‘Executed’ in chinagraph crayon, 1 June 1985, Opuwo, Kaokoland.
The second sketch is of the same goat, now skinned skinned . I captured the scene in red and blue ball-point pens. I June 1985, Opuwo, Kaokoland.
A pencil sketch of a stalking kitten called ‘Poephol’ 21 May 1985, Epuwo Base, Kaokoland. Several feral cats frequented the base. This kitten had been rescued and several platoon members had tried to save it, but without the benefits of mother’s milk it succumbed.
Sketches of a dead mouse in pen and ink, as well as in brush and ink. Opuwo, 28 May 1985, Kaokoland.
A pencil sketch of a dead Mouse, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 28 May 1985
A pen and ink study of a dead mouse, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 28 May 1985.
An ink and brush study of a dead mouse, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 28 May 1985.
Ink and brush drawing of a bat. Eyuva Base. Kaokoland. 1985. These creatures inhabited the deserted bathrooms at Eyuva Base.
Pencil drawing of a bat. Eyuva Base, Kaokoland, 1985.
A pencil study of a bat, Eyuva base, Kaokoland, 28 June 1985
Wax pencil sketch of a lizard at Eyuva Base.
A pencil drawing of a small Tortoise. The location on the South West Africa border with Angola I unfortunately did not record.
A pencil drawing of an antelope or goat’s skull that I found in a dry river bed below the Epupa Falls, Cunene River, in the Kaokoland, 4 April 1985.
A pen sketch of a Ground Squirrel, Opuwo, 14 June 1985, Kaokoland.
A Mullet-like fish caught in the Cunene River, 5 April 1985, Good Friday, Epupa Falls, Kaokoland.
Pencil drawing of the Baobab tree that stands next to and above the Epupa Falls, Kaokoland. Over many decades people visiting this site, mostly soldiers, had carved their names into the bark of the behemoth, and with time and expansion many of these letters had enlarged or distorted. It stood on an ancient organic mound of its earlier growth, also inscribed. I titled this drawing the ‘Graffiti Tree’. This area was often bathed in a fine mist from the falls and was a delightful spot to cool-off on a hot day or simply to take a dip in the rivulets that pushed through the rocks in front of this most remarkable of trees. One can go onto the internet and see the tree, now photographed by recent visitors for a comparison to my drawing.
Pencil drawing of a Baobab tree and leaf, at Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, drawn on the 16 April 1985. This tree stood on the rocky and dry hill opposite the falls, unlike some of its more lucky cousins who grew near the falls and were well-watered by the cooling mists rising from the falls.
A watercolour of our small camp on the banks of the Cunene River, just above Epupa Falls, 2 April 1985. This spot was incredibly beautiful, and the Makalani palms (Hyphaene petersiana) were full of delightful little squirrels and brightly coloured parrots.
A pen and ink drawing of the Makalani Palms (Hyphaene petersiana) along the upper course of the Cunene River, above the Epupa Falls, Kaokoland. These palms produced a very hard nut (vegetable ivory) contained in an incredibly tough and fibrous outer shell. The ivory nuts were surrounded by a brown layer and we would carve a design through this layer into the white below. With my draughting skills, I was kept busy by my fellow Mortarists, drawing designs onto these makalani nuts for them to carve. The Owambo and Kavango people tap the sap of these palms to produce an intoxicating palm wine which they call Ombike.
A pencil drawing of a tree and its fruit that was a common tree in the Kavangoland.
The fruiting bodies of an unknown tree, Rundu, Kavangoland, 13 January 1985.
Typical Kavangoland bush and terrain, 1985, 3 SAI, O Coy, 1984 Intake, SADF, Military.
Cucumis africana, Rundu, Kavangoland, SADF, Military.
A watercolour painting of a Sedge that I found growing alongside and above the Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, 16 April 1985.
Sedge, Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, 16 April 1985.
A watercolour study of flowers, Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, 16 April 1985.
A waterclour study of an unknown flower, Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, 5 April 1985, Good Friday.
A watercolour study of the fruiting bodies of an Unknown plant, Epupa Falls, Kaokoland, 10 April 1985.
Pen and ink study of a dry pod, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 1 June 1985.
A ballpoint pen study of a flower and leaves, 11 January 1985, Rundu Base, Kavangoland.
A ballpoint pen and wash study of an unknown tree’s fruiting bodies, Rundu, kavangoland, 7 December 1984.
(above 5 images) Pencil and Watercolour studies of a Cotton flower, bud, capsule and bol, Opuwo, Kaokoland, 4 June 1985.
Untitled, 15 April 1985. Opuwo, Kaokoland.