This "Rain Man" has absolutely nothing to do with Dustin Hoffman. Indeed, this name literally refers to water that is falling from the sky.
When I made this piece, I had the following story in my mind:
Afrika, in a sun-baked region.
It is hot.
It is dry.
And this is going on for many weeks already.
An old farmer sorrowfully looks at his parched fields.
And now, unexpectedly, he feels the first drops of a enduring rain on his brows.
He tilts his head back, lifts his face towards the rain, closes his eyes and knows:
I will live on.
To a small, insignificant bird, one night in a dream the burning Phoenix appears - the Good Fairy of the birds.
"You and your forefathers have lived in this world as small, hag-ridden creatures. You have been hunted for your tender meat. You have been scared
off by the bigger birds whenever there was food. Still you fought for your place and you have done much good. You have eaten the small crumbs that were spurned by the bigger birds. You helped the
plants to spread by eating their fruit and carrying their seeds and then dropping them. Such big courage and perseverance shall be honoured: I grant you four whishes for you and your
The small bird thinks hard and remembers how the herons always were first when it came to fishing and how they caught the fish before he could get at them - so he says: "I want a long neck and a long beak just like the herons, so I can have fresh fish whenever I want!"
Then he remembers how often he was chased by the quick and fast falcons and how often he would barely escape.
"I don't want to flee from the fast falcons any more and have fear that they will catch and eat me. I want the fast wings of the Falcon. And while we are at it, the strong tail of the eagle would help me to be more nimble and agile!"
Eventually the little bird remembers a scene when he was too tired and exhausted to fly any more - and was chased by a wildcat down on the ground. He barely made it into a mousehole and so he says: "For my last wish I want the strong legs of the ostrich, so I can run away from any danger when I am on the ground!".
The Phoenix changed into a roaring flame and engulfed the little, dreaming bird.
And the flame whispered "So be it!" and the little bird continued sleeping.
When the small Dickey woke next morning, he could just not believe his eyes: the dream had become reality!
He now carried the long, slender neck of the heron, carrying a head with sharp eyes and a long beak, made perfectly for spearing fish. The wings - they were really like a falcon's wings! And the tail feathers, exactly like those of an eagle! And when he rose from the ground, it was on the strong legs of the ostrich!.
Everything had become true what he had dreamt that night - he now was a combination of the best what he could imagine.
But - and this is a BIG "but" - nothing really fit. Nothing worked even remotely the way he was used to.
And - all in all - he now was less than before.
It is September 12, 490 BC.
Athens is a small town who is about to be conquered by the mighty Persian empire, run by Dareios (the first). To this end, a Persian expedition army heads towards the plains of Martathon. When the Athenians spot this, they send one of their courier runners (the then-version of our communications troups) to Sparta to get military support from there.
This messenger (Pheidippides) covered the distance of 245 Kilometers (roughly 150 miles) in just two days - but when he arrived, he was told by the Spartans that yes, they really would like to come to bash the Persians but alas, first they would have to finish their great celebration to honour the God Apollon Karneia or else this God would be very furious indeed. So our Pheidippides ran back, bearing the bad news for the Athenians and arrived just in time to participate in the big battle of Marathon.
As we know, the Athenians won the battle and now they were looking for someone to carry the good news back to the beloveds at home.
The capable runner Pheidippides was remembered and sent to Athens to tell the tale - and off he went (after making the detour to Sparta and afterwards fighting the Persians) wearing his full armour.
With the last grain of his strength he arrived at the Areopag (a rock in Athens where the magistrate was located), cried "we have won!" and - dropped dead.
That is the story of Pheidippides, at least as far as Plutarch and Lukian wrote it down some 500 years after the events. A mix of fable and truth, but a colourful and thrilling story.
Exaggeration or not, tale or not - I wondered how the speedy Pheidippides might have looked just before he reached Athens: marked by deadly (but won!) fights. With a dented and partly ripped helmet, half of his teeth missing and a nearly swollen-shut eye. Completely exhausted after the immense physical strains of the runs to Sparta, back to Marathon and now from Marathon to Athens, every gasp sheer pain.
And still: he has the ultimate aim unwaveringly in view and he will achieve it...
This piece was created in 2017 during a workshop of several week's duration, held by Shona artists. Because the raw stone to me showed a tree-leaf and we were at that time talking about Shona history and mythology, the conversation turned to spirits.
When I put the question about tree-spirits, our tutor (Merchers Chiwawa) laughed and asked "Good or bad ones? Because there are bad spirits but their names must not be mentioned!"
Since I don't only believe in (some) good in Mankind but in the good in spirits too, he told me about the Mudzimu.
These are spiritual beings who sometimes live in trees but represent the deceases ancestors of a family and which are responsible for the well-being of the family or the clan - provided, the family lives according to their rules.
If these (rather general an basically for all Shona valid) rules are broken, the Mudzimu can be punitive.
The spirit of a murdered human will be perceived as a revenging Mudzimu who will not rest before the family of the murdered has been compensated satisfyingly.
As well, if there is dissens or quarrel in a family, a Mudzimu of this family will find a medium and will make known through this person how the quarrel can be brought to a termination.
So the families are guided and protected through their Mudzimu.
And thus, "my" Mudzimu shall protect the family for which I found him in the stone.