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Quagga foal named ‘Khumba’
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In a wonderful development that brings the story of SA animation film “Khumba” full circle, a young Quagga foal has been named Khumba after the lead character in the latest movie from Triggerfish Animation.
Khumba’s real-life counterpart also only has half his stripes and is part of the Quagga Project Association, a volunteer-based organisation which has been breeding this previously extinct variety of zebra ‘back to life’.
According to the Quagga Project Association’s Craig Lardner, Khumba will live on the slopes of Table Mountain in the SANParks reserve. Ironically, this is where the film’s director Anthony Silverston first learned of the fascinating animal. “I remember reading about the Quagga as a child and being fascinated by the fact that an extinct animal could come back to life.” Later, Silverston recognized the potential for this extraordinary creature to be a strong visual metaphor for anyone struggling with identity.
“Khumba is a coming-of-age story about a zebra searching for his missing stripes as a way to be accepted back at his herd, but really his journey is a personal one of self-acceptance,” says Silverston.
“I was fascinated by the question ‘How many stripes does it take to make a whole zebra?’ He adds. “This question is at the heart of Khumba’s quest. If we continue to see our differences as something negative, at what point will we really be okay with ourselves the way we are?”
“It is a pleasing analogy for a story about our common humanity, despite our differences, whether they have to do with culture, religion, gender or sexual-orientation,” says co-writer Raffaella Delle Donne. “Khumba’s journey is something with which all of us can relate – the quest to feel comfortable in our own skin.”
The name ‘Khumba’ indeed comes from the isiZulu and isiXhosa word meaning ‘skin’ and, in the story, Khumba has defined himself by his exterior. His difference is what has set him apart from the rest of the zebra herd, but only when he sees this as a good thing, can he look beyond himself and find the courage to help the rest of the animals in the Karoo.
When researching the story, Silverston was fortunate enough to meet with Professor Reinhold Rau, the founder of the Quagga Project Association who started the investigation that ultimately proved the Quagga is merely a subspecies of zebra that looks different rather than an entirely separate species.
The animated film draws on inspiration from many other real-life settings and animals of the Karoo. Another character in the movie for example is the endangered Riverine Rabbit which is a rare species of rabbit endemic to the Karoo. It too is under threat of extinction, although it is unlikely it will have the same chance for resurrection as the Quagga.
“It is exciting to be associated with the Khumba story,” says Craig Lardner of the Quagga Project Association. “The Quagga Project’s awareness will no doubt now grow as youngsters and school learners are afforded the opportunity to visit the “live” Khumba in one of our locations, right here on the slopes of Table Mountain.”
Look out for the plaque at Rhodes Memorial which features more information about the Quagga as well the movie which is being distributed in SA by Indigenous Film Distribution releases in English and Afrikaans October 25th.