Wire Sculptures

Wire Sculptures

My Grandfather's Beehives

During the school holidays, my siblings and I stayed with my grandparents in the village along with a dozen of my cousins. One day, when the adults were away like always, the boys dared the girls to climb avocado trees. However, climbing up was not the ultimate challenge. You see, my grandfather kept some of his beehives high up in the trees. In essence, the challenge was climbing down fast enough to flee from angry bees once we agitated them.

While the girls daringly climbed, we threw stones to disturb the bees. (In my defense, I was around 10 years old). The girls teased us when the first few stones missed the targets. But over time, we dented the metal tin cans pretty bad! Lucky enough, the girls got down before there were serious injuries, considering swarms of bees can be lethal. I am pretty sure we laughed our lungs out as one of my cousins wailed with a swollen eyelid.

Meanwhile, the bees got real angry! They swarmed around the yard stinging all the farm animals. At first, we laughed as the bees tormented chicken and helpless goats that were secured to a grazing radius by long ropes fastened to trees. We were really impressed by the smart and agile guinea fowls, while silly chicken ran around in circles pretending to fly but only attracting more attention from the bees. The sheep just stood still. We assumed their wool protected them.

Just to confirm that the boys were probably more stupid than the chicken, we ran to hide in my grandmother's bedroom (house) and decided to lock out the girls. It was fun when they were banging on the door hysterical to come in. But when one goat that broke free from the rope came to seek refuge on the veranda with a thick cloud of bees hovering above its head, we realized the gravity of our mischief. The girls ran away and we knew we were in trouble. Bees came into the house via the broken windows and punished the boys severely. We got stung all over the body. There was no foreseeable way to sneak out of the house with swarms of bees claiming the whole yard. We got really scared. Four of us squeezed into the wardrobe, while the other one covered himself with sheets on my grandma's bed. We stayed in hiding for about 3-4 hours, while the bees continued to cause havoc around the farm. We made all kinds of prayers and vows that we will never ever ever cause trouble ever again!

My grandparents were really worried when they got back. Anyway, they never got the full story. The girls were more scared about explaining why they were climbing trees in the first place, so they did not tell tales. Besides, there was a firm code of silence among my cousins since the adults spend more time away than they could protect any telltale 24/7.
My grandma insisted that all the beehives around the homestead got took down. She reiterated how much she had mentioned countless times to deaf ears that the beehives should be kept away from the farm. Despite the fact that grandma was always right, my grandpa just smiled because he was probably too drunk to argue. That evening, a famous bee hunter came and smoked away the bees, shirtless!

From a kid's perspective, the story actually had a happy ending. Unfortunately, a number of sheep were fatally stung in the eyes, nose and ears and the few that survived could not feed for days. Two goats died and several chicken were subsequently slaughtered, so that meant a lot of meat for the rest of the school vacation! The grandparents pampered and nursed the stung kids. They were just happy no one was seriously injured. Most of all, we had the coolest story to tell once we got back to school in the city.



Galvanized Wire, Chopped Log, India Ink

The Beehunter (2012) is a tribute to the shirtless beehunter who came to harvest all of my grandfather’s beehives by the night and smoked away the bees from the farm. The ink drawings reference Zimbabwe cave paintings that depict hunters and gatherers, including traditional bee-hunters. Beekeeping is still prominent in Zimbabwe where the locals fuse traditional and modern practices. It is whispered that some spiritual beekeepers can summon bees to punish certain wrongdoers. I am usually skeptical about such myths, but after my experience with the bees, I won’t take any chances!
Thanks to Paula and Peter Schlax who brought about the conversation through their passion and expertise in all things beekeeping, and for sharing some honey!

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