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Our African leopard art collection celebrates the rosetted beauty that is referred to as chui in Swahili, a language widely spoken in eastern and central Africa.
Often confused with the cheetah because their coats are, at first glance, similar, there are, in fact, perceptible differences between the patterns.
Where the cheetah's lanky body is built for speed (hence its distinction as the fastest land-based mammal), the leopard is shorter and stouter, but more on that in a moment...
Plus, while the leopard's face is filled with the rosette pattern that characterizes the rest of its body...
The cheetah spots two black "tear lines" that run from the inner corner of each eye down to either side of the mouth.
Suffice it to say that chui boasts many feathers in its furry cap...
It is part of the coveted Big Five, and the Big Cats, that are both top African safari drawcards.
Yet even among the "Bigs," the African leopard is easily the master of elusiveness, stealth, cunning and camouflage.
It uses these traits to patiently stalk then ambush its hapless prey with meticulous precision before it accomplishes yet another feat...
Harnessing its stocky build to haul its kill up a tree and to hoist it to a firm branch, well out of the reach of other predators like the lion and hyena.
Few artists have attempted to animate the leopard's characteristics enumerated above. And far fewer have truly succeeded.
Those who do render them via acrylic or oil on canvas paintings, pencil or ink sketches, murals or wooden carvings.
Fascinated artists depict whole adult leopards, doting mother leopards and their cubs, plus playful baby leopards on their own.
Some of these artists even go granular, focusing on just the leopard's golden, rosette-spotted coat, face (complete with whiskers that remind us that this really is a cat), eyes, tail or even paws.
Capturing a whole leopard on canvas with superb craftsmanship really does justice to its regality owing to the synergy of its beautiful golden, rosetted coat, sturdy legs, retractable paws and long, thick tail.
Take the acrylics on canvas painting below by Geoffrey Mugwe, for instance...
The rosettes in the part-golden coat give way to mostly black spots on a white underbelly.
This obviously isn't an upclose painting so the detail of the feral eyes is not quite as sharp and ferocious as it is in these African leopard portraits.
However, a curious but naturalistic necklace-like dappling of conjoined solid black spots on the leopard's upper chest is visible, as are the whiskers, paws and tail.
And then there is the backdrop that is a celebration of African landscapes!
The elaborate, verdant acacia tree in the immediate background means that Geoffrey painstakingly painted every leaf as well as the distinct grass blades that constitute the tree's undergrowth.
The savanna in the middleground then gets hazy and is the perfect complement to the blurred, almost shimmering trees further afield and the deep blue sky on the horizon.
You can read more about this charismatic leopard wall art piece here.
If you would like to juxtapose the above whole African leopard painting with a portrait zooming in on the leopard face including those unforgettable eyes, I encourage you to pore over this pick.
The African leopard painting by Hoods Jjuuko exudes power...
Think about it:
Head in an upright posture.
Eyes a pair of glowing amber.
Whiskers purposefully erect, accentuating the Big Cat look.
Stocky, muscular build to shock and awe its prey.
Stout legs that radiate strength and are designed to subdue large prey several times its own weight of 60 kg (130 lb).
As this African leopard puts its best foot forward in this art piece, it also symbolizes its determination to assure its continued existence even though it has to contend with a raft of crises that threaten its very survival.
Side bar: Is this elegant, realist, sentient pose what inspired fashion houses to baptize the the way models gyrate on a raised ramp to showcase designer clothing and accessories the "catwalk"?
You can read more about this piece, including the artist's motivation and process flow, here.
This masterpiece by Damba Musoke is appropriately named "The Nocturnal Huntress" as the African leopard is active at night.
The dark background complements the title, as if the leopard was painted from an infrared shot taken at night.
Though to be fair, Damba exclusively paints in black and white tones only.
The African leopard is Damba's runaway favorite of all Africa's wildlife. I can see why. Like the leopard, Damba loves to work quietly alone.
He's very soft spoken but when he unveils his works, I always exclaim in a mixture of delight and excitement.
You can read more about this hyperrealist piece here.
Yes, it turns out, leopards like their Big Cat counterparts, the lions, also roar. A sawing-through-wood-like roar, but a roar nonetheless...
Especially important for me as a conservationist, our leopard art collection draws urgency to the need to protect these cats which have inherent worth, from the threat of extinction due to massive habitat loss and, senseless (and I dare say, medieval!) sport hunting.
CITES, the international treaty which is an authoritative source of the conservation status of the African leopard lists it (by its scientific name Panthera pardus) in Appendix I.
This is an ominous sign, as Appendix I contains species which are threatened with extinction with the result that international trade in specimens of these species is prohibited. Absolutely no exceptions, thankfully! Although enforcement of treaty provisions could do with some ramping up...
Our leopard art aims to spotlight the beauty but also plight of the African leopard, one art piece at a time.
Reserve any or all of the above pieces and let them adorn your living room wall and act as an ambassador to the predicament of the species. And spread the word that leopard art is far better company than haunting, hunted trophies.
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