Headhunter (antisyzygy) is a painting inspired by the extreme survival story of Orcadian Jack Renton, who is sometimes called “The White Headhunter.”
Renton was a 19th Century seaman from Stromness who was ‘Shanghai’d’ (abducted) and eventually marooned in the South Seas, drifting for thousands of miles with a few other deserters from the American ship Renard. He wound up the only survivor, abducted by a headhunting, cannibalistic tribe from Maana’oba, in the Solomon Islands.
Amazingly, Jack Renton managed to befriend the locals, learn their language and ways, and join the tribe. He lived with them for some seven years.
Upon rescue and return to his birthplace, Renton seemingly found it difficult to re-assimilate into Orcadian culture. He returned to the South Seas, working as a regulator in the ‘blackbirding‘ (near-slave) trade until he was killed in duty. When they learned of his death, the tribe on Maana’oba built a shrine in his honour, and supposedly his story survives to this day through their oral history (and also British newspaper articles which no doubt miss a lot of the gory detail).
Jack Renton must have endured and done terrible things to survive. He probably suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In any case he appears here as an extreme example of what has been called the Caledonian antisyzygy – the dual nature of the Scottish character probably best exemplified by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
This painting may or may not be for sale in exhibition at some date in the future. Serious offers only please if you are interested.