In the first sketch of a new series, I am going to try to illustrate African mythological creatures and characters. First up is the Lightning bird, or Impundulu. There are likely to be several versions of each of these characters, so your input is welcome. I am hoping to create a set of six to 12 finished images by the summer of 2013.
The Impundulu or Thekwane (Lightning bird) is a mythological creature in South African traditional tribal folklore. The Zulu and the Xhosa and Pondo tribes have stories about the lightning bird, described as black and white, the size of a human and which is said to cause thunder and lightning with its wings and talons. It is said to have an appetite for blood.
The lightning bird is believed to manifest itself only through lightning, except to women, to whom it reveals itself as a bird. The bird may take several forms. In one instance, a girl described a black rooster-like bird that ran up her hoe and left claw marks on her body before it flew back to the clouds. It is also described as having iridescent feathers like a peacock’s or a fiery red tail, bill and legs.
The Impundulu is believed to lay a large egg underground at the point of a lightning strike and this may be a good or bad omen. Traditionally, the tribe’s witch doctor plays the essential role in dealing with the lightning bird. The bird’s flesh can be made into a remedy for tracing thieves, as an example.
In real life, the Hammerkop, or Stork, whose territory ranges from Africa, Madagascar to Arabia, is believed to be the lightning bird.