Popular artist raises awareness about the endangered African wildlife through latest art exhibition.

African wildlife, with its iconic big beasts and diverse species, has long been a central feature of the continent and a major draw for millions of tourists from around the world.

However, a new art exhibition in Johannesburg aims to challenge the fraught relationship between humans and animals on the continent, which spans centuries and has often involved the exploitation and destruction of African wildlife for profit and leisure.

The artist and photographer Roger Ballen showcases provocative installations and multimedia works in his new exhibition titled ‘End of the Game’.

Through his art, he argues that humans have been responsible for destroying African wildlife for nearly 200 years, from killing elephants in the past to feed the ivory trade to hunting rhinos to near extinction.

The exhibition aims to examine how depictions of African wildlife in popular media, including Hollywood films, have reinforced stereotypes about the continent, contributing to environmental destruction. It opened in March this year.

According to Ballen, the way Africa and its wildlife were depicted in Hollywood films contributed to a negative, stereotypical image of the continent, which most people in the West knew only through these portrayals.

While hunting was already part of African culture prior to European colonization, the arrival of firearms and the commercial trade of materials such as ivory and animal skins led to an increasing exploitation of African wildlife and its resources.

Additionally, the advent of trophy hunting, where big game is killed for sport rather than sustenance, further exacerbated the issue.

The wildlife in Africa continues to face ongoing threats from land development and deforestation which are shrinking natural habitats.

Human-made climate change is also impacting the continent with some areas suffering from lengthy droughts, while other regions battle weather-related issues such as cyclones, heavy rainfall, and dust storms.

Ballen’s new exhibition ‘End of the Game’ features a collection of photographs and creative installations made from artefacts collected over 40 years from sources such as metal scrap yards, hunting farms, pawn shops, and roadsides around the world.

The goal of the exhibition is to challenge viewers to confront the destructive impact humans have had on African wildlife and its environment, presenting it in an imaginative and thought-provoking way.

Africa’s wildlife is facing continuous threats due to land development and deforestation, resulting in the shrinking of natural habitats. The continent is also being adversely affected by human-induced climate change, leading to prolonged droughts in some areas while others are experiencing cyclones, heavy rainfall, and dust storms.

Renowned photographer Ballen has recently launched an exhibition called ‘End of the Game,’ showcasing a collection of photographs and artistic installations made from artefacts collected over four decades from various sources such as metal scrap yards, hunting farms, pawn shops, and roadsides worldwide.

The exhibition aims to encourage viewers to confront the destructive impact of human activities on African wildlife and its environment, presented through imaginative and thought-provoking visuals.

In a particular room of the exhibition, the main attraction is a wax figure representing a hunter surrounded by his hunting gear and collectibles. The collection also features archived pictures of past U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting trips to Kenya and Winston Churchill’s East African Safari back in the early 1900s.

One of the exhibits within a curated cinema features a short film compiling clips from old Western movies featuring African wildlife and videos taken by European tourists who came to Africa for trophy hunting. These films show hunters standing triumphantly over their mainly dead trophies, including giraffes, elephants, and rhinos.

A visitor named Shelley Drynan remarked that while she didn’t find the exhibit scary, she did find it very interesting. She felt that it was fascinating to observe people’s attitudes towards animals and how they interact with them, as many people seem to be hypocritical in their treatment of animals.

Another visitor named Sarah Wilding, who was already familiar with Ballen’s previous works, found herself emotionally moved by the exhibition’s portrayal of African wildlife and its destruction over a long period of time.

Sarah Wilding expressed that she felt the experience was truly fantastic, simply being present in the exhibit and feeling the melancholy and mystery conveyed through it.