Our Bonobo Connection

by Charity Oetgen


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I am using my creative voice to develop a series of paintings depicting Bonobos, my greatest artistic inspiration, in their current existence. I will show their triumphs and tragedies, and use my art as an instrument to show my journey and experience in Africa, side by side, with our closest living relatives. Did you know that a recent genetic study has shown that Bonobos share 99.6% of our DNA, and possess the ability to recognize social cues, making them our closest cousin?  Sadly, despite our close genetic ties, They are still pursued for bushmeat, hunting trophies, and native medicines by indigenous populations; additionally the black market sells them as pets. The circumstances at hand have had a significance influence on my artwork, and I want to portray meaningful, honest creations, featuring Bonobos in their natural habitat.

Up to this point, my artwork pertaining to bonobos has been mostly depicted with individual poses and portraiture but that is not who I believe Bonobos are or how I, as an artist, want to portray them. Bonobos, like us, are social, endemic creatures that cannot survive alone. I want my work to be a conversation, a story -- an invitation to an understanding of their world. That is something I cannot create by peering through the glass that separates us, or seeing them play at the zoo for our viewing pleasure. 

The Congo is my only option. It is the only place Bonobos exist in the wild. Here I can study them and learn their ways to help me produce a body of work which better showcases what I feel and know to be true. My artistic vision will provide a vehicle to positively showcase how the Congo war/conflict has affected not only their country, but the people. I want to show the agony of having one’s own mother shot and killed, to convey what it feels like to be lost and alone. I would like to project their strength and character, their community structure.

Your investment will provide travel funds to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to study the Bonobos at Lola Ya Bonobo. The trip will serve as source material for the art pieces that I will create over the next year. As a gift reflecting my deep gratitude for your help, I will send you a piece created from that body of work.

In addition to my artistic endeavors during my stay, I will keep a travel diary noting the schedule of activities, habits, my personal interactions with them, as well as my time with the Congolese people. This experience will provide invaluable personal and artistic experience; I will learn how to effectively capture an expression, a loving embrace, and fast movements in my studies. This experience will help me cultivate a provocative, innovative, and emotional body of work that I am unable to do by studying Bonobos in captivity. Equipped with sketchbooks, I will create watercolors and ink studies for an authentic impression of my personal journey. A photo log of my time in the sanctuary will be created for reference to be used in later works created in my studio.

Your sponsorship will unfold a dream and make my vision a reality, allowing me to dedicate more time to pursue an unprecedented, purposeful body of work.

My minimum goal of $10,000 will help pay for my flight, lodging, art supplies, other travel expenses, as well as a camera suitable for long ranges. If I do not reach my minimum goal -- I do not receive any funding; however, if the support for this trip goes beyond my goal, it will allow me to delve deeper into the project through an extended stay at Lola ya Bonobo, to travel upriver with Bonobo Conservative Initiative to see Bonobos in the wild at Kokolopori, and to publish an archival and educational sketchbook/book about my experience with Bonobos.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and for everyone coming together to help me create an unforgettable body of work all about Bonobos.

Match Funds are not currently available.

Previous donations matched by:

    • March 28, 2013 Charity Oetgen Artist

      THank you so much Eva! I am so thrilled and excited for this tip and series!

    • March 27, 2013 Eva Montealegre Artist

      What a wonderful project!

    • March 25, 2013 Charity Oetgen Artist

      I am adding 2 perks and updating another!! If you donate $5 you will receive a Bonobo Ecard with a 5x7 photo of original artwork For $10.00 you will receive an Ecard and an original mini print! $25-- I am adding an original print as well! Thank you for your continued support!! This would not be possible without so many people supporting my dreams!