Random Ugandan Acts of Unkindness
WHO'S THE BIG APE CLOWNING AROUND WITH GORILLAS?
By Geoff Olson
In the latest installment of Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger
series, the author devotes a chapter to a very bizarre news item.
According to the Coventry Evening Telegraph, a hunter in Uganda is
being sought by local authorities for illegally hunting gorillas. He shoots
them with a tranquilizer gun and dresses them in clown suits.
That's right, clown suits. According to the report, six gorillas
have been found in clowned condition in the wild, wandering around like
You may recall Sniffy the Rat, and the outrage that followed "artist"
Rick Gibson's threat to drop a brick on the rodent. Here's a new twist on
the Sniffy routine-- assuming we can ascribe any aesthetic spirit to these
random Ugandan acts of unkindness, as Wilson does.
"I wonder a lot about this bizarre Ugandan," writes the author.
"Once having found his metier, will he repeat himself endlessly
(the usual fate of the inferior artist) -- or will he begin experimenting
more broadly? Can we look forward to reports of wildebeests in polka-dot
pajamas, chimpanzees in tuxedos, zonked zebras waking in the garb of a Gay
Dada, the great granddaddy of today's "performance art",
was a post-WW I program of slapstick assaults on bourgeois sensibilities.
An enclave of cafe philosophers with a joy buzzer sensibility, the Dadaists
wanted to subvert rationality for the sheer hell of it. Is the Ugandan a
Think of it: an unknown African on a mission to resurrect a moribund European
art movement! The mystery marksman lives up to Dadaism's spirit, even if
his efforts sound more like a gorilla joke by Steven Wright than a guerrilla
routine from Tristan Tzara. In any case, it can't be much fun to be an ape
on the receiving end of an inexplicable intent. Writes Wilson: " I
bet they hate it -- feel acute terror and rage -- when they wake up covered
in something constraining which they cannot possibly understand."
The story has a screwball poignancy about it, and not just for it's animal
pathos. Human behaviour, with its catalogue of whimsies and obsessive thoughts
-- punctuated by perversions of the most darkly Gothic kind -- is often
mysterious. The distorting lens of cultural differences makes it even harder
to understand. What would extraterrestrial beings, surveying a Ugandan game
preserve dotted with apes in clown costumes, make of the human psyche?
It's a great story, this news item of primates in circus couture, but It's
provenance is another matter. Wilson wondered whether the Coventry Evening
Telegraph employed "a drunken and unreliable part-timer covering
animal news from Africa..." Yet the author also heard a later radio
report claiming the Ugandan clowning continues: the gorillas cannot remove
the suits unaided, and the wardens must "retranquilize and unclown
them." Says the chief warden: "We are dealing with a very sick
However, a certain Loren Skaggs, posting to the Internet news group alt.follklore.urban,
says he contacted the gorilla conservation office in Rwanda (which monitors
ape populations throughout Africa, including Uganda). A spokesperson there
assured him that there has been no such "hunter," and no occurrences
of this nature.
"She hastened to point out that such an act would be highly unlikely,
since gorilla poaching is a very serious crime, and that anyone who would
take the risk of actually shooting a gorilla in that impoverished part of
the world would surely not waste it on a lame practical joke." Skaggs
was told that gorilla parts are extremely valuable on the black market;
there's no way a poacher would leave a gorilla to recover consciousness,
clown suit or no.
Perhaps then Bozo the Ape belongs in the suspect company of the phantom
hitchhiker and the pet in the microwave oven. Though I contend that if the
story's not true, it's definitely bizarre enough that it should be.
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