Published nearly a year ago was a new study recording the discovery of cave paintings within Borneo’s natural limestone cathedrals. Amidst these images are a trio of rotund cow-like sketches that, undergoing the new dating analysis, were found to be at least 40,000 years old. This discovery not only presents them as cave art that precedes those of France and Spain, archaeologist and geochemist of Griffith University Maxime Aubert states that "It is now the earliest known figurative artwork.”
Animals, with all its symbolic connotations, have long been the majestic muses of creatives since the dawn of human evolution. Their shift from literal depictions on cave walls to mythical, anecdotal, and religious icons further cements them as the go-to subject matter across all artistic disciplines.
Enter Zaahirah Muthy with her latest series titled Le Village des Animaux (The Village of Animals).
Artist, activist, and founder of Dubai’s leading art consultancy ZeeArts, Zaahirah is a creative force to be reckoned with. Taking spirituality as a point departure, Zaahirah “wanted to pay tribute to God’s creations” and adapted animals from their mentions in the surahs of the Holy Quran, the chronicle of Noah’s Ark, and from her personal relevance to them. Through her employment of sgraffito with resin finish, Zaahirah etches these forms into the build-up of paint layered on the canvases as she conjures and conveys vignettes of these creatures that dominate the air, lands, and oceans.
With over 200 verses that alludes to the magnificence of animals bearing gentle traits, only in their most beautiful forms are these animals mentioned within the Quran. Within the 114 surahs, 6 are named after animals. Beyond the introduction of the Elephants, Bees, and Spiders, Zaahirah expanded the series with the Turtle, Duck, Giraffe, Fish, Butterfly, and Camel. Mingled within the mix as reference to the artist’s Mauritian roots and identity is the Dodo bird that had once, but no more now, walked her native lands.
Spanning the course of 4 years since 2015, the series has been a culmination of Zaahirah’s undertaking to diverge her craft into untapped expanses while bettering the day-to-day appreciation of these earthly creatures seen as gifts to humanity. It is in this vein that Zaahirah Muthy has gifted us with Le Village des Animaux, thus prompting for a resurgence of animals in art today.