It has been years since I went to Plaza de Toros in Madrid for a bull-fight.  My partner refused to go — “I can’t sit and watch that cruelty”,  she had the three of us know.  But I went, telling myself that it was out of curiosity.  All my life I’d heard of this and, like flamenco music, the bull-fight is Spain.

I watched the bull enter, swinging his great horned head this way and that, as if in wind, searching out the enemy.  Then, the picadors, some on horseback, wound the bull by opening his back for the sword ultimately to enter.  And last of all, the matador, an image of refined defiance.

What I remember was his balletic agility, lifting himself just out of the reach of the points of those searching horns, horns as agile as he is.  He was an unforgettable combination of grace and daring, facing death each moment in the eyes of the bull.  He took two or three thrusts of his sword before the bull, literally, symbolically, sank to its knees.

How do I now, years later, reconcile myself to that cruelty?  It is the message of the brutality, the timeless poetry of it — two forces, the one dark, primeval, and the other lithe and evolved; the one brute, the other, a refined spirit.  It is the clash of nature and culture; a rush of opposites.  The event will keep burgeoning for me.  It took me years to understand why I did not, and cannot, condemn bull-fighting.


© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

September, 2017


Images by Pablo Picasso



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