Behind the Image – “A Shepherd’s Chore”

A Shepherd’s Chore is a special image for me. It signifies many milestones or ‘checkpoints’ in my life and I’m grateful that I had the fortuitous opportunity to capture it.

"A Shepherd's Chore", Lesotho.

Context

In a sense, it’s lucky that this image exists. From the context of my time in Lesotho to the kind of gear I had back then, chances were against this image coming to life. That’s not an attempt to bloat my ego, but rather a humble remark on the operation of this world.

It was the second day of 2018 when two of my dear friends and I visited Lesotho. We travelled around the Kingdom in the Skies for two weeks with my primary objective being to create a video for my YouTube channel. I, like many others, was under the illusion that a YouTube career is easy and glamorous. I can now say, with confidence, that it is not. Still, the video exists and it’s a creation I’m proud of.

Milestone 1 - Truthfully Expressing Myself through Art

The storyline of the video very much reflected the state of mind I was in at the time. Unbeknownst to me, I was in fact struggling with the onset of depression. The source of it is a mystery, but from the video one could assume that eco-anxiety was partly to blame.

While Lesotho is beyond beautiful and so very untouched & wild, I couldn’t look past the country’s plagues — industrialisation under full swing in the capital Maseru, diamond mines popping up on a seeming weekly basis, and the water from their biggest source, the Katse Damn, being siphoned away by South Africa and leaving drought in its wake.

I was actively looking for beauty, but also for atrocity. The video balances these two and expresses how I feel about the world.

Milestone 2 - Influence in Art is a Two-Way Street

It was outside of the video’s context, and out of nowhere, that this young shepherd appeared ahead of me in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps 12 years of age, he was lugging the load to his village in the blazing heat. As I drove past him, he mimed a drinking action. I pulled over, wound down my window, greeted him, and passed him a bottle of water.  

He accepted the bottle, took a tiny sip, and promptly handed it back. 

The kindness & respect in that simple action brought my world to a halt. If I had been that thirsty, on that sandy road, in that baking heat, I would surely drink as much as I could. This moment sent me on an internal journey of self-questioning, one that I still sometimes find myself on.

I went on to spend some time in his tiny village nearby, chatting to other shepherds. What I realised is that while I was out there looking for negativity, they were focused on the positive. As I reflect on this now, a few years later, I want to incorporate this into my code of how I lead my life. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ll try.

It’s a privilege to be influenced by the subject I get to capture, and to influence them and my audience to some extent. It’s a cycle that everyone is affected by — perhaps this is the most beautiful component of art.

Milestone 3 - Being Proud of my Work

The final checkpoint that this image signifies is personal pride in a photo I’ve taken. As soon as I snapped it and reviewed it on the back of my camera, I knew that it was a good photo. One that could finally somewhat rival ‘the professionals’. After years of photography, I finally believed that perhaps I had some talent to work with.

Still, it took me another three years to work up the courage to print, frame, and sell this piece along with 14 others in my first fine art collection, Beyond the Borders.

The African Spirit

Much has been said about the openness, depth, and truthfulness of the African Spirit. Africa is known as “the heart of the world”. There’s a mystery to this that I hope to explore sooner rather than later. 

I’m grateful that this little encounter gave me a taste of what awaits.

"Cloaked in the Skies", Lesotho
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