Before the Dawn

Rupert Copping

 

The Arayana are an indigenous people descended from an ancient empire living contentedly in the remote mountain forests. With scant knowledge of the outside modernising world they cling to their ancestral traditions and seek to pass on the wisdom of their elders undisturbed.  Before the Dawn is their story, a story of drama, intrigue, foreboding, and the painful invasion of a group consciousness, beautifully rendered by landscape painter Rupert Copping. Although told entirely from their point of view this is no patronising post-colonial ‘innocence to experience’ yarn nor is their world an idyllic Eden in some virginal state before the Fall. Copping explores the complexities of tribal life through four main characters; a chief, his wife, his mistress, and a disgraced elder. Much of what they seek to protect seems no less dark and cruel than the ways of the outside world – but it is their sphere. The forces that swirl around and seep into their isolated enclave are complicated and circuitous, pitting native, invader, revolutionary and reactionary against each other. Copping takes the reader from the dark cave of ancient ritual to the mindless carnage of the ‘Radiant War’ - mirroring the psychological journey that the Arayana must take. With stark guerrilla brushstrokes and fresh environmental impetus he tells the age-old story of conquest and loss.

Rupert Copping was born in London into an eccentric and bohemian family. As in infant, in the early fifties, he was taken to Ecuador by his mother and stepfather – the latter being, among other things, a herpetologist. As a consequence, during his childhood and teenage years he spent long interludes in the jungle. On one occasion he accompanied, as cook and translator, an Oxford University botanical expedition into remote areas of the rain forest where he was in contact with isolated indigenous tribes. Later he settled in London and in the late sixties was associated with an experimental art and dance group called The Exploding Galaxy.

 

After a short stint as a lifeguard in London, Copping and his family lived in a coastal village in southern Spain, in what was then an isolated agricultural mountain region known as the Alpujarrra  – but which has since been declared a national park and has been ‘discovered’ by Spanish tourists and foreigners. Copping also served as an ‘advisor and text book writer’ with an English language academy set up in Granada city by an ex Jesuit missionary priest. During these years he witnessed the transformation of Spain from dictatorship to democracy and made periodic journeys to Morocco, Portugal and other countries.

 

Returning to the UK in the early eighties, Copping and his family settled on the Isle of Skye. Having learned the art of candle-making in Denmark, he set up his own candle workshop, while his wife ran a whole-food and book shop. Due to a long-standing interest in painting, he started taking art lessons at night and eventually opened his own successful art gallery. Since then he has been a professional painter and his work has been collected world-wide.