I'm a long time follower of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Namibia, and last year I sponsored a rather ragged looking senior cheetah named Amani.
I chose her because her right eye was missing.
According to her CCF biography, Amani has a silent but strong presence that is evident to both cheetahs and people. She rules her compatriots simply by staring with intensity and has a well known tendancy to be ornery.
For a lucky few, she also shares small bits of endearing behavior. This is apparently only for the people who have earned her trust by feeding her on a regular basis.
While it may seem unsociable, these are all traits that I can appreciate so I felt like she was the perfect match for me.
Cheetahs are my favorite of the big cats and I'd been meaning to paint one for quite a long time. I was actually feeling guilty that it wasn't done yet so I finally got on with it and based a painting on Amani.
Fairly early in the process the painting changed from a single panel portrait to a partially symmetrical diptych. I'm sure there must have been a reason for doing that but right now, more than a year later, I can't remember why.
I covered her closed eye socket with an eye patch because heroes and villains alike get more respect when they wear an eye patch, and although I've never met her, the written accounts indicate that Amani is quite the bad ass. It's unfortunate that the eye patch status bump doesn't work quite the same way for the everyday visually impaired, but I digress.
Amani's name means 'peace' in Swahili, and you might notice that the branches of the tree in the background, when you put the two panels together, suggest a peace sign.
Duma means 'cheetah', so the full title, Amani Duma, (loosely translated since I don't know Swahili grammar) means Peace Cheetah.
Pacha means 'twin', so the second panel of the diptych, Amani Duma Pacha, means Peace Cheetah Twin.
While the cheetahs are mirrored, taking the stance of a pair of sentinels at the entrance of some terribly important place, the eye patches are not, and neither is the tree or the background sky.
So why are there two cheetahs?
In retrospect I find myself identifying with Amani, and while I'm not so far gone as to think of myself as a cheetah, I wouldn't mind sitting with her under a shady tree while studying the world with a silent stare.
UPDATE: We received word from CCF that Amani died in August of 2017 at the age of twelve, which is, we're told, pretty good for a cheetah. Goodbye, you gloriously fierce old crone, we're glad to have known you.
About the Author
Annie Dunn is the artist behind Chaos in Color. She's kind of nutty about cats, has an odd affinity for skeletons, and likes to listen to audiobooks while working. Every once in awhile she puts things down in writing.