The beach-loving bulls of Pondoland – in pictures

Photographer Christopher Rimmer spent a year studying the strange habits of cattle on South Africa’s wild coast. His exhibition Amapondo opens in New York in April.

Reports from shipwrecked sailors stranded on the coast suggest they have been doing so since at least the 16th century, although no one is quite sure why.

‘I spent a long time observing these animals and, as resistant as I am to anthropomorphising, I could come to no other conclusion than: the bulls visit the beach daily because they simply enjoy being there,’ says Melbourne-based photographer Christopher Rimmer, adding that the scenes have not been digitally altered.

Rimmer grew up in South Africa and went to school in the Eastern Cape. He became familiar with the history of the Xhosa people and their language and cultural traditions.

The Xhosa language has a complex vocabulary to describe cattle’s skin markings and individual traits.

The cattle are housed in a pen overnight and released at dawn.

They return at midday for milking and most often head for the beach in the afternoon.

On hot days, the grazing cattle go right into the surf zone on one of the most shark-infested beaches in the world.

Although the herds include calves and cows, Rimmer’s images concentrate on bulls.

The bull features heavily in the Xhosa mythology and oral history.

Rimmer chose to focus on the bulls as their shape and size is better suited to the portraits he wanted to create.

Bulls often stand apart from the herd, creating a surreal contrast to the pristine sands and open skies.

The serene images are also at odds with the usual association of bulls and aggression, he says.

When people see these animals in such an eccentric location, they are both amused and moved, particularly when they realise the scene is natural,’ says Rimmer.

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The exhibition Amapondo opens at Art Expo New York at Pier 94 on 24 April and will be on view in Cape Town, Melbourne, Munich, San Diego and Miami later in the year

Published in The Guardian, 27 Feb, 2015, Written by: Adam Dewar