The Red Palm NutJane Goodall and David Greybeard
The Red Palm Nut is a commemoration of world renown ethologist and environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall’s monumental achievements. The bronze narrative life size sculpture captures the groundbreaking moment of connection between Goodall as a twenty-six-year-old researcher in Gombe, Tanzania, and David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee to grant her trust. Of the sculpture Goodall, who is Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace , has noted: “Marla has done more than just capture the likeness of me and David Greybeard, she has captured a relationship between human and animal. And I hope that this sculpture will enable more people to understand that close relationship that we have with the animals with whom we share this planet.”
Goodall has described the importance of the moment represented in the work, when after following David Greybeard, she discovered him seated on the forest floor and was able to communicate with him non-verbally. This initial breakthrough enabled the progress of her pioneering research:
"I was following him along a trail in the forest. I lost him for a moment but then found him sitting. I sat near him and lying on the ground between us was this ripe, red palm nut, which chimpanzees love. So, I picked it up and I held it towards him on the palm of my hand and he turned his face away. So, I put my hand closer and he turned and looked directly into my eyes. He reached out and he took and dropped that palm nut but then very gently squeezed my fingers and that’s how chimpanzees reassure each other. So, in that moment we understood each other without the use of human words, the language of gestures. He understood that my motive was good.”
Friedman’s sculpture conveys this moment of unity beautifully through postures and gestures. The bodies of Jane and David Greybeard echo each other perfectly, despite the space between them. Each is seated with knees bent, head turned towards the other, and arms extended to create a perfect arc shape above the red palm nut. Jane gazes downward, submissively, as David looks directly into her eyes. The vulnerability of each subject is palpable as they breach the divide between human and animal. Today such physical contact or proximity is no longer practiced or endorsed by Dr. Goodall or the Jane Goodall Institute, making the meaning and power of this magical moment all the greater. Friedman has captured the transcendent innocence of Jane’s historic, first connection with David Greybeard. It is this very moment of their empathic shared trust that would open to Goodall, the world of the wild chimpanzee.
Friedman embraces an intuitive creative process, working from moment to moment to harness skill and instinct in order to develop a likeness of her subjects and a strong message for the composition. She has a masterful ability to authentically reproduce the sitter’s physical form while simultaneously capturing the essence of a persona. Describing the significance of this sculpture she has reflected that: “I hope the message of the sculpture is our empathic connection with ALL animals. The universal unspoken language. An awareness and sensitivity to the feelings of all living beings. Jane and I share this concern in our collaboration on The Red Palm Nut. The message of empathy is profound and important especially at this moment in history. Kindness begets kindness.”
The original bronze casting of The Red Palm Nut was acquired by the Field Museum in 2018 and graces the outside of the Field Museum's East Marble Hall entrance.
- Hollis Taggart, New York City
"So, in that moment we understood each other without the use of human words, the language of gestures. He understood that my motive was good.” ~ Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE