'Tracking' is a body of work about learning to track animals, and more broadly learning to become a Trails guide - someone who takes people on guided walks in the African bush. The texts that appear here are extracts from a longer piece and are randomised, meaning they appear in random order. You are invited to click through to the next text, but the panels do not construct a linear narrative, and will not appear in the same order twice.
Adam drills us on our tracks. He is strict, almost severe. There is a brisk pedantic note in his voice as we stop to consider endless smudges on the ground. These marks effortlessly assume the shape of playing cards - hearts, the Ace of Spaces (most antelope), or club-like balloons (buffalo, eland). The thug-toed, canine (hyena), the three-padded Australia-shaped palms of the cats, ringed by satellite claw-less toes – the only cat that cannot retract its claws entirely is the cheetah. Also the two-pronged inscrutable stabs of bushpig, warthog and the Vs of vervet monkey feet, the tell-tale tail drag of their prehensile tail, like a hairy snake. The porcupine with its complex Lego foot, seven or ten pads in all, and the wire-brush scuff of its quill marks on the sand.
My brain struggles with shapes, with visual information of any kind. At first the tracks we see imprinted on the sand, in month-old mud, on grassy dustlands, are no more than rivers of inscrutable symbols. Animals moving this way, pursued by their future attackers, animals moving that way, to or from water. The dinner plate spoor of elephant who carve their own avenues in dense bush, landscaped by the stepping stones of their dinner plate feet.
We circle in the mopane scrub, trying to pick up the trail, a group of amateurs pursuing a professional. With a lion or an elephant the great prize at the end is a glimpse of the animal, live, in the act of walking through the world. But also a ribboning satisfaction: we’d caught up with you. These sightings take on a transport. They are visitations, hallucinations. They are moments. Once unleashed on the world we live in their wake vortices.