Through the lens of Christian mythology, the wolf has been seen through a fear mongering perspective. Afterall, what is on the other end of the Biblical imagery of Jesus as a shepherd protecting his flock? When men chose a violent annihilation way of living in order to protect their property and livelihoods, the wolf, badly understood and subjected to associations with the devil, was constantly hunted in Europe, many times tortured in public and to kill one, would be a symbol of courage. In the latest decades in Portugal, the Iberian Wolf population suffered a staggering decrease pushing the remaining packs to the north of Rio Douro, whereas once they inhabited the country almost entirely. Protection acts through sensibilization, education and the implementation of sustainable methods now exist even though dedicated organizations still face doubt and resistance in some regions.
Melissa spent days at the Iberian Wolf Recovery Center – a sanctuary near Lisbon, Portugal – learning from the staff and from observing the wolves, recording from late evening to early mornings, acquiring a sense of their rhythm. Minho, Gardunha, Arga, Lobito, Nave, Gerês, Malcata, Regoufe, Nogueira, Freita, Faia, Bolota are their names. Tapping to the frequent dreams with animals that Melissa was experiencing then in particular, a breach in her imagination thought about the figure of a child establishing a relationship with wolves through curiosity and deep respect. This doesn’t mean, to tame or to domesticate, but to move beyond fear and understand the wolf as a highly intelligent and sensitive animal.
It is this intelligence and sensitivity that were in the center of this composition. The wolf lives and the wolf suffers at the hands and minds of human arrogance. And its daunting and hypnotic howling can simply be a beautiful song. Their body movements, agile but strong, pounding on the ground that one feels underneath the feet. How they demand respect from humans – and certainly other animals. How they have the right to life simply because they exist and without them we’ve seen the devastating effects it has caused in ecosystems. In Melissa’s view, the wolf can very well be seen as a mythological figure for all the qualities it holds, and the equilibrium it provides where it exists.