500 years of rhinoceros collection and display

This travelling exhibition presents the rhinoceros as an object of spectacle, study, currency and desire. It refers to the complex history of colony, power and acquisition in relation to early collections of natural history, and the relevance of this to 21st century collections, as well as the crisis in which many species find themselves today. Starting with Dürer’s 1515 rhinoceros engraving, where he referred to the image as abconderfet, an accurate copy of an absent original, the exhibition draws on a history of printmaking and reproduction, particularly poignant in the current context where the rhinoceros, threatened by extinction, is poised to become a digital image only.  The project points to these lacunae, and, framed by a bisected rhino-sized crate, contains no real specimens but presents the rhinoceros in fragments. It includes images, texts and objects reproductions from museum collections, zoos, and public archives, that draw across time periods and continents. It was exhibited at the Iziko South African Museum between November 2019 and December 2020 and has travelled by ship to Lisbon, where it is exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History and Science until August 2021.

The artist would like to acknowledge the support of :

  • University of Cape Town
  • Centre for Curating the Archive
  • National Research Foundation
  • Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)
  • IcWild (UCT)

Melissa Waters, Xhanti Zwelendaba, Pippa Skotnes, Nina Liebenberg, Thomas Cartwright, Niek de Greef, Nico Herholdt, Moeneeb Dalwai, Terry Adams, Fazlin van der Schyff, Nancy Dantas, Stanley Amon, Duncan Meyer, Dr Darrin Lunde (Smithsonian Museum of Natural History), Mark Carnall (Oxford University Museum of Natural History), Dr Neil Duncan (AMNH), Dr Kees Rookmaaker (Rhino Resource Centre),  the staff of the Iziko South African Museum and the staff of the Lisbon National Museum of Natural History and Science.