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A beautiful exhibition with an important message

A beautiful exhibition with an important message: this is how I would summarise Marta Ariza’s new photographic portrait exhibition – ‘Death for a Trophy’. This exhibition at Oxford House is dedicated to Marta’s upcoming documentary, similarly named ‘Death for a Trophy’, and it was an exciting moment when she released the documentary’s teaser during the exhibition’s opening last Friday.

‘Death for a Trophy’ captures Marta’s visit to South Africa, and the photographs depict the wild animal’s dignified existence in their natural habitats. South Africa almost comes alive; Marta captures the intricacies of these animals so perfectly that when looking at the photograph of the crocodile you can almost feel the texture of its skin. The captions on the photographs lend even more to the dignity of these animals – did you know that the elephant’s intellectual capacity is such that they even appear to have rituals surrounding death?

These beautiful images are accompanied by a more poignant voice, however. The captions also reveal that many of these wild animals are hunted in order to become mounted trophies or commodities for trading. Smaller photographs accompany the main images of these wild animals and testify to this. Next to the image of the wild giraffe is another, more heart-breaking image – a giraffe whose head and neck are mounted on a stand – a ‘trophy’ for the man who stands proudly next to it.

In ‘Death for a trophy’, Marta contrasts photographic portraits of wild animals with their ‘trophy’ counterparts in order to raise awareness about the cruel natures of Canned and Trophy Hunting; lions, bred and hunted in enclosures, are being shot and made into trophies or decorations for the home. This industry is a hidden one in South Africa, and yet it is not illegal – each year a growing number of animals are shot in order to meet its growing demand. Shocked to find out about this industry whilst in South Africa, Marta decided to challenge it. ‘Death for a Trophy’ – both the exhibition at OH! and Marta’s upcoming documentary – aims to reveal the cruelty that the animals in this business are subjected to.

During the opening of the exhibition, representatives from CACH – ‘Campaign Against Canned Hunting’- and other organisations spoke to the visitors. They spoke knowingly about the horrors of Canned and Trophy Hunting and, most importantly, what can be done to stop it. It appears that the cruelties of these forms of hunting are finally being thrust into the light. ‘Death for a Trophy’ is not merely a collection of beautiful photographs: it represents a true desire for change, and is a step towards reducing the amount of cruelty in the world.

This exhibition is running at OH! until 31st March 2015.

Text: Hayley Downey

Photo: Chloe Rodrigues

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