white lion project

The Communication with Lion = Light

written by UMIRA (Emiko Tokai, April, 2011) 



Light and Shadow change shape at every moment and soon disappear as if they are breathing animals. I have always been captivated by lights and shadows in nature and created my art works with this interest.


Linda Tucker’s book Mystery of the White Lions Children of the Sun God inspired my interest in the connection between the White Lion and light as it is seen through African mythology and tradition. I attempted to research this theme through daily observation of the lions, the light and the shadow while I had stayed at Global White Lion Protection Trust in South Africa.


In terms of academic context for my practices, I was inspired by the viewpoint of Holistic Science and David Abram, an American philosopher and also sleight-of-hand magician, whose work combines ecology with the philosophical tradition of phenomenology. Abram’s unique perspective on the world is also deeply influenced by indigenous culture–in the 1980s, he traveled in Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka living and studying with indigenous medicine people. He also focuses on how language has a decisive influence on the human senses and on our sensory experience of the land around us. He says that the other beings who do not speak with a human tongue ‘may speak a language of movements and gesturers, or articulate themselves in shifting shadows. (Abram, 2010, P.10)


Imagining light and shadow as a living creature with its own language, I encountered a similar metaphor that sees light as a ‘messenger’, -in Cox’s series The Wonders of the Universe, Cox(2011) explains that ‘light travels at a finite speed and a light year isn’t just a measure of distance but it’s also a measure of time’, which means when we look beyond the sun to far more distant stars, we reach further back in time, across the whole of human evolution. ‘Those ancient beams of light are messengers from the distant past and they carry with them a story, the story of the origin of the universe.’ (Cox, 2011)


I think that examining either the ancient wisdoms or the origin of the universe in terms of the connection between the White Lion and light will expand not only our imagination but also our perceptions in the reality.




Abram, D. 2010. Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. New York: Pantheon Books.

Abram, D. 1997. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Vintage Books.

Cox, B. 2011. Wonders of the Universe: Messengers. BBC2. Broadcast on April 1 2011.  

Tucker, L. 2001. Mystery of the White Lions Children of the Sun God. London: HAY HOUSE



Emiko Tokai's Background Story with White Lions


In 2010, she encountered Linda Tucker's book Mystery of the White Lions in a town called Totnes, England. Hoping to see the real White Lions, a year later she made a voyage to South Africa and participated in the conservation project of Global White Lion Protection Trust (WLT) as a volunteer. After graduating the university in UK, she started to translate Linda's book under her permission. In 2013, she was invited to White Lion Leadership Academy as a scholarship student and continued translation work staying in the bush surrounded by the white lions roaming around for a half year.With her career of art & performance, she has especially interested in the cultural aspect of White Lion in which they are considered as the symbol of light (or the Sun) according to the ancient African tradition. She completed the translation after nearly 3 years committed to the work and it was published in 2015 as the Japanese version of the book.