Gripping Tail–White-throated Monitor and Yellow Baboon by Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen


I first drew a monkey pulling a large lizard by the tail at around age seven, and revisited the concept a

couple of times before “getting it right” with this piece some thirty years later, set in south-central

Africa, in which the subjects are a Yellow Baboon (Papio cynocephalus) and a White-throated Monitor

(Varanus albigularis). As with most of my work, this situation is one that I’ve never seen, but as far as

I can figure is perfectly plausible. I tried to design the piece so as to build a literal tension between the

protagonists, while imparting a motivation to them. The monitor’s struggle against the tugging monkey

cancels his own simultaneous effort to swing around and face his tormentor, creating a static tension

emphasized by the lizard’s fingers scraping through the sand. The baboon’s air is much more placid:

curious but apprehensive. Her cocked head and pigeon-toed stance confirm this. The line describing the

tension runs from the curved lizard, through the straight line of tail and arm, ending in the monkey’s

kinked tail, which in turn is echoed in the shapes of the acacia suckers behind her. The title “Gripping

Tail” was suggested by conceptual artist Andrew Krasnow.

Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen