Have you ever noticed the luminous illustrations along Rhodes Drive? The flash of bright butterflies, chameleons, frogs and even the Western Cape’s provincial flower, the red disa, would light up the night as cars drove by.
Maybe, more recently, you’ve noticed a number of bright caracals along the roads from Kloof Nek to Glencairn?
These beautiful designs are not there for your delight but are the brainchild of Bryan Little, founder of the Endemic Project, which is now called Public Shows of Reflection.
It’s no secret that the Mother City is home to a plethora of flora and fauna. What is somewhat lesser known is the plight of these animals and the attempt of Little to shed light on the plummeting numbers of wildlife species.
“The Endemic Project is actually the name of my first project on Rhodes drive that I created this medium a few years ago,” said founder Bryan Little.
“I am now taking the project further under the name Public Shows of Reflection where I hope explore the interface between the people of Cape Town and our incredible ecology whilst raising awareness around specific issues such as roadkill of indigenous species such as the caracal.”
The latest addition to the Endemic Project is a collaboration with the Urban Caracal Project. The aim of the new campaign is to raise awareness around the city’s hotspots where these illusive creatures are often killed by speeding cars.
“I created the artworks with the guidance of Gabi Leighton and Jacqueline Bishop from the Urban Caracal Project and the Institute for Communities and Wildlife at the University of Cape Town around where to place them for maximum effectiveness regarding the communication about these 7 roadkill hotspots they have pinpointed in their research,” continued Little.
“These reflective works are part art installation and memorial for Cape Town caracals that have been hit by cars. Set up in caracal road-crossing hotspots, the works literally “highlight” the principal cause of death for these charismatic animals – being hit by vehicles.
:Caracals are now the largest remaining indigenous carnivore on the Cape Peninsula and play important roles as apex predators and umbrella species. Because caracals need large, wild spaces and access to prey resources, conserving them also conserves many other species,” said the Urban Caracal Project.
“Caracals are incredible not only because they are strikingly beautiful wild cats (those ears!) but because they are so resilient and adaptable in the face of all kinds of challenges, especially those in an urban environment,” said Leighton.
The signs are a gentle and inspiring reminder for people to slow down, says Little.
“The hope is that when drivers see these magical glowing caracals, they will not only slow down and keep the roads safer but also appreciate how fortunate we are to live in an area where we coexist with such incredible wildlife.”
The seven hotspots are mapped out below:
The Endemic Project in its entirety has not always had such a dazzling time. Over the years, signs have been vandalised or stolen but Little explains it is a conceptual part of the process.
“I want people to fall in love with them and then if they are stolen or damaged they then feel that loss, it’s my way of taking something that could be abstract, the loss of a creature, and making it something people feel,” he said.
Little explains that while there is so much good work to be done around raising awareness, funding plays a role in getting the message out there.
“I would love to do a lot more work like this, and I am inundated with requests for specific species in communities but the materials are expensive and the works time consuming to create. I’d love to make it into a community project one day with lots of people helping and being paid,” said Little.
The country’s move to Level 3 Lockdown has also put a spanner in the works.
“Another challenge at the moment is the early curfew which makes it hard for people to experience the project in the dark as they are meant to be. Caracals are solitary, mostly nocturnal creatures and are a wonder when encountered. I hope my work reflects that (excuse the pun).”
Despite these bumps in the road, Little is extremely grateful to the community he has garnered.
Little concluded: “I think this work really touches something that reminds us that there is magic in the world and for a moment we shine brighter.”